Standard Oil Heirs Join Movement to Divest Fossil Fuels

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The movement against investing in fossil fuels has reached a critical mass, with more than 800 individuals and institutions promising to rid their portfolios of $50 billion worth of investments in non-renewable fuels.

On September 22, the Rockefeller family — whose scion, John D. Rockefeller, built an immense fortune as co-founder of Standard Oil — announced that their $860 million philanthropic foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, would be the latest to join the movement.

Fund president and Rockefeller heir Stephen Heintz said in a statement that the elder Rockefeller would have agreed with the decision. “[I]f he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.” Fund trustee Steven Rockefeller said his family’s decision has “both a moral and economic dimension.”

Related: IEA Says Investment In Clean Energy Will Keep Growing, Slowly

The Global Divest-Invest coalition planned to announce additional new divestment pledges the same day — the eve of a United Nations Climate Summit in New York where 120 heads of state will speak on how their governments plan to help stop climate destruction.

Since its beginnings three years ago, Global Divest-Invest has attracted 180 institutions and 650 individuals and families who have vowed to dispose of their investments in oil and other polluting fuels over the next five years. The movement has been joined by small colleges and big universities, churches, states and municipalities, hospitals, and even pension funds in the United States and abroad. Arabella Advisors, a consultant to philanthropic groups, reports that in the past eight months, the number of institutions signing on to divestiture has more than doubled from 74 to 180.

Corporations are also changing its ways. Food giant Mars Inc. is among the multinationals that are phasing out the use of fossil fuels, and Norway’s Statoil is one of five energy giants pledging to stop toxic methane leaks. The consumer goods corporation Unilever says it will endorse a tax on carbon.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) President Carter Roberts told Bloomberg News that, “The leadership from companies has been remarkable and welcome. You will see a swirl of commitments.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will preside at the UN summit, which will include leaders of major companies from around the world.

Related: This Week in Energy … Climate Confusion is all the Rage

Ban told Bloomberg on September 18 that he hopes the meeting will build momentum for talks on climate change that will conclude in Paris in December. The aim, he said, is to limit the release of greenhouse gases to a level where average global temperatures don’t rise more than 2 degrees Celsius — or about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit — over the level before the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century.

“I’m really going to ask world leaders to show their political will,” Ban said. “I count on the U.S. and China, who are the biggest greenhouse-emitting countries [to] lead this campaign.”

The Secretary-General was among more than 300,000 people who marched in the largest climate demonstration ever in New York on September 21 to press for action against climate change. Similar marches were held around the world.

Originally written for OilPrice.com, a website that focuses on news and analysis on topics of alternative energy, geopolitics, and oil and gas. OilPrice.com is written for an educated audience that includes investors, fund managers, resource bankers, traders, and energy market professionals around the world.

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