The fossil-fuel divestment movement

I was quoted today in the Seattle Times and on WWLTV, in AP articles that look at the college fossil-fuel divestment movement.

Jason Hayes, the associate director for the American Coal Council, a lobbying group, said the “idea of students not using coal but using their iPads” doesn’t make sense.

“Pretty much every single one of these students is going to be using a device that is powered by coal-fired electricity,” he said.

Hayes questioned why the divestment campaign isn’t targeting the entire transportation sector, since cars and trucks emit large quantities of greenhouse gases.

One correction needs to be made. The ACC is not a lobbying group. We are a trade association that advocates for the use of coal. We do not engage in lobbying (for specific bills, etc.)

While the AP reporter was fair in their use of my words, I am always interested to see how they distil 15-20 minutes of discussion into less than 5 seconds worth of quotes. In this case, all of our discussion about coal, gas, nuclear, and renewable energy options, the stability of the internet & the “cloud” due to reliable and affordable electricity, investment decisions, energy education, jobs in the mining/energy industry, the impacts of energy policy choices on end users, etc., etc., etc. ends up with me being portrayed as attacking the transportation industry. In fact, I only discussed the transportation issue because the reporter said that the divestment movement recommended that school endowments invest in other areas, such as the transportation sector or automobile producers.

Update: The WWLTV spot states,

 …industry groups say virtually everyone benefits from fossil fuels —including students.

Jason Hayes, a spokesman for the American Coal Council, says virtually every student is using electronic devices that are powered by coal-fired electricity.

The reality is that benefits of using fossil fuels are not “virtual” and everyone (not virtually everyone) in North America benefits greatly from the use of fossil fuels – whether Bill McKibben or these students are willing to admit it.

We benefit from lower costs for every good and service that we purchase or use. We benefit from improved, reliable, and far less expensive transportation options. We benefit from living longer, healthier lives with access to medical products and procedures that would not exist without fossil fuels. We benefit from increased comfort (and again, longer healthier lives) due to affordable and effective air conditioning and heating, insulations, and building materials. We benefit from the use of plastics and chemicals that are derived from fossil fuels. We benefit from affordable and widespread access to web and cloud-based computing.

We just flip the switch and expect our lights to come on – every time. We actually get quite upset if, for some reason, they don’t come on. We start our car and expect the engine to come immediately to life – we expect the plastics in our car seats to hold us up, the stereo to play our music at the volume we choose. We open the refrigerator and expect to find abundant, affordable, cold food products that were shipped to us from around the globe.

We benefit from the use of fossil fuels in ways that that most don’t ever take the time to consider, or that most can’t even imagine, and that would certainly take far too long to list in this post.

We just expect that all of these things happen, or are there for our use. However, it’s now past time for McKibben and his crew to publicly admit that none of those things would happen in this world and that most of those things we just take for granted would become too expensive or just disappear without the widespread use of fossil fuels.

Update: article also ran on

22. May 2013 by Jason Hayes
Categories: carbon, Climate Change, Emissions, Energy, Environment, Policy, Utilities | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on The fossil-fuel divestment movement