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Rockefeller Fund Divests Fossil Fuels, Says Exxon Is “Morally Reprehensible”


The winner of today’s “peak irony”, or rather hypocrisy, award is easy: it goes to the Rockefeller Family Fund, a charity which exists only thanks to John D. Rockefeller’s creation of the Standard Oil carbon-spewing behemoth (a predecessor to today’s ExxonMobil) which over the past century has created billions in profits for the Rockefeller family and billions in tons of CO2 emissions, “proudly announcing” this morning that it intends to sell all fossil fuel exposure, and that it would “eliminate holdings” of ExxonMobil because the oil company associated with the family fortune has “worked since the 1980s to confuse the public about climate change.

The U.S.-based charity will also divest its coal and Canadian oil sands holdings.

This striking move is the result of the Fund’s “green” metamorphosis. According to the charity, given the threat posed to the survival of human and natural ecosystems, “there is no sane rationale for companies to continue to explore for new sources of hydrocarbons.”

Oh, now they tell us.

In response to the divestment movement, many oil industry leaders have argued that millions of people in the developing world would be condemned to darkness and poverty if society halted the burning of fossil fuels anytime in the next several decades, before there is an ample supply of cleaner energy sources. And considering the price of oil is so cheap currently that the research and development of so-called alternative, or clean sources of energy is completely uneconomical, it means that the kind, liberal folks over at the Rockefeller foundation would rather see Africa in the dark than suffer the immoral indignity of even a few more grams of CO2 emissions.

Today’s move follows the launch last November by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of an investigation into whether Exxon misled the public and shareholders about the risks of climate change. At the time, the company said it has included information about the business risk of climate change for many years in its quarterly filings, corporate citizenship report and in other reports to shareholders.

Exxon Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson has openly talked about the reality of climate change. The company has said it has constructively contributed to climate research for years.

As early as 2008, members of the Rockefeller family called on Exxon to make governance changes and increase spending on alternative fuels. And then, in late 2014, another fund associated with the family, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), and several other philanthropies and non-governmental organizations said they would divest from fossil fuel-related investments.

Here is the best part: this whole “divestment” is nothing more than theater. This specific endowment runs a tiny $130 million in total assets. As for Exxon, its shares were down 0.4% on the day, less than the drop of the broader market.

So here is the real question: will the Rockefellers divest of their full energy holdings, kept in blind, family, and various other (offshore of course – nobody wants to pay taxes, not even green liberals) unknown trusts, due to their disgust with the “morally reprehensible” company created by their ancestor?  The answer: of course not.

* * *

Here is the full Rockefeller Family Fund statement:

The Rockefeller Family Fund is proud to announce its intent to divest from fossil fuels. The process will be completed as quickly as possible, as we work around the complications of modern finance, which is increasingly dominated by alternative investments and hedge funds.

While the global community works to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, it makes little sense—financially or ethically—to continue holding investments in these companies. There is no sane rationale for companies to continue to explore for new sources of hydrocarbons. The science and intent enunciated by the Paris agreement cannot be more clear: far from finding additional sources of fossil fuels, we must keep most of the already discovered reserves in the ground if there is any hope for human and natural ecosystems to survive and thrive in the decades ahead.

We would be remiss if we failed to focus on what we believe to be the morally reprehensible conduct on the part of ExxonMobil. Evidence appears to suggest that the company worked since the 1980s to confuse the public about climate change’s march, while simultaneously spending millions to fortify its own infrastructure against climate change’s destructive consequences and track new exploration opportunities as the Arctic’s ice receded. Appropriate authorities will determine if the company violated any laws, but as a matter of good governance, we cannot be associated with a company exhibiting such apparent contempt for the public interest.

To operationalize this decision, the Board has instructed its advisors, effective immediately, to eliminate holdings of ExxonMobil, and all coal, and tar sands-based companies outside the portions of the portfolio managed by third parties, and to keep exposures for these three categories of investment below 1 percent across the entire portfolio. The Family Fund’s Finance Committee will soon be entering the second phase of its divestment work, which will entail seeking suitable alternatives to certain commingled funds now held. The field of Socially Responsible Investing is dynamic and growing and we are confident that a variety of options will soon emerge for mid-sized endowments such as ours.

Needless to say, the Rockefeller family has had a long and profitable history investing in the oil industry, including ExxonMobil. These are not decisions, therefore, that have been taken lightly or without much consideration of their import. But history moves on, as it must. Indeed, it is past time for all people of good will to do everything in their collective power to make our new path one that recognizes the deep interdependence between humanity’s future and the health of our natural systems.


21 Comments on "Rockefeller Fund Divests Fossil Fuels, Says Exxon Is “Morally Reprehensible”"

  1. Cloud9 on Thu, 24th Mar 2016 7:19 am 

    Selling out a business that is on the verge of failing and claiming altruistic motives is the height of hypocrisy. The insiders have looked at the EROEI trend.

  2. Davy on Thu, 24th Mar 2016 8:02 am 

    What a joke. Let’s act righteous about a publicity stunt when in reality our very existence is exploiting the earth for private gain. It is easy to leave fossil fuel investments when those investments are tanking

  3. Practicalmaina on Thu, 24th Mar 2016 9:14 am 

    Now that they have had their hands in the profitable range of environmental destruction, they are moving into commoditizing semi clean air and water.

  4. Practicalmaina on Thu, 24th Mar 2016 9:19 am 

    Who wouldn’t want to invest in fossil fuels? Maybe because Peabody the largest private coal company is currently losing 17.5 million a day on average. All while wrecking the environment.
    The amount of panels that 17.5 mill a day could buy…..

  5. Revi on Thu, 24th Mar 2016 9:34 am 

    Too bad they didn’t decide to do this a couple of years ago when they would have been selling at the top of the market. I do think it’s still a pretty good move. There is no chance to revive the company which their scion formed. I think they can invest it in a lot better things than fossil fuels nowadays.

  6. GregT on Thu, 24th Mar 2016 11:58 am 

    The rats are deserting the ship.

  7. dave thompson on Thu, 24th Mar 2016 12:52 pm 

    Oil and FF is what runs the industrial civilization we live in. To say you are divesting yourself of FF stock holdings with an altruistic idealism of setting an example for everyone to get on board with is deception of the worst kind, in so much that Rockefeller Fund are still invested in what FF produces, that is, industrial civilization.

  8. PracticalMaina on Thu, 24th Mar 2016 5:29 pm 

    Dave, coal is about to get a kick in the balls when the largest privately owned coal miner goes under in another oh two months. The result will be increased renewables and natgas, which will increase the price of gas, therefore tar sands, maybe spelling the end. China will embrace renewables more than us because smog is distrusting the economy.

  9. Rick Bronson on Thu, 24th Mar 2016 7:33 pm 

    This is like a Category-5 hurricane to the Big oil companies like Exxon, Shell & BP.

    Rockefellers are not only aware of 2015 & 2014 being the 2 warmest years, but also the fact that the $40 / barrel of oil will not get any good returns for them.

    Back in 1970’s Utilities turned away from Oil for power generation following by space heating and then by the petrochemical industry.

    Finally the transport sector is moving away from Oil. No wonder oil is struggling to get up to $50 / barrel.

  10. makati1 on Thu, 24th Mar 2016 8:36 pm 

    A case of the pot calling the kettle black. LMAO

  11. Kenz300 on Fri, 25th Mar 2016 1:16 pm 

    Wind and solar are the future……..

    Solar Beats Gas in Colorado – Renewable Energy World
    Solar and Wind Just Passed Another Big Turning Point

    Fossil fuel companies are spending millions to spread doubt about Climate Change……

    4 Ways Exxon Stopped Action on Climate Change

  12. Boat on Fri, 25th Mar 2016 8:31 pm 

    “While the global community works to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, it makes little sense—financially or ethically—to continue holding investments in these companies. There is no sane rationale for companies to continue to explore for new sources of hydrocarbon”.

    Somebody stayed in the opium den to long. I feel fine using oil to support survival. When an alternative that is cheaper comes along, count on me to jump on that band wagon.
    Meanwhile the idea of oil not being a sane investment or it’s use not sane is bat shyt crazy.

  13. GregT on Fri, 25th Mar 2016 9:47 pm 

    The even more non-sensical Boat quote of the day (you just can’t make this shit up)

    I feel fine using oil to support survival.

  14. Boat on Fri, 25th Mar 2016 10:03 pm 

    You use oil also. You waste electricity coming to this site just like we all do. How do you justify your energy use. You son, are a weird bird.

  15. GregT on Fri, 25th Mar 2016 10:28 pm 

    Our species has survived for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years without oil. In less than 300 years of oil usage, our species is now facing extinction.

    You Boat, are a total and complete fucking useless moron.

  16. Joe D on Fri, 25th Mar 2016 10:31 pm 

    “I feel fine”, but you don’t ‘think’ fine.

    “oil to support survival”, oil to kill life support!

  17. Boat on Fri, 25th Mar 2016 11:05 pm 

    “Our species has survived for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years without oil”.

    You are part of the last 300 years. Your just another form of denier. Love to point fingers and blame and take no personal responsibility.

  18. GregT on Fri, 25th Mar 2016 11:15 pm 

    I have taken personal responsibility Boat. I spent my entire day today building soil, and planting strawberries and blueberry bushes. In the last 10 months I have cut my fossil fuels usage by more than half. All of the electricity that I use here is either from hydro, or solar. How about you Boat? What are you doing about your own personal responsibility? Fingers are being pointed at you, dumb fuck.

  19. onlooker on Sat, 26th Mar 2016 1:06 am 

    This statement put out by the Rockefeller fund is the heights of hypocrisy from pioneers in the Oil industry and from ones who have gained among the most from FF. This is also, a clarion call that staying with FF may not be a prudent financial decision.

  20. onlooker on Sat, 26th Mar 2016 2:33 am 

    Oh Boat and saying Greg is not taking any responsibility is just a plain lie. Good to know of your progress Greg with your little sanctuary in the midst of this Big Bad world.

  21. Kenz300 on Sat, 26th Mar 2016 9:47 am 

    All fossil fuel companies need to make a change to their business plans and become “ENERGY” companies by embracing non fossil fuel energy production.

    Wind and solar energy production are the future…… all these fossil fuel companies need to get on board or they will perish.

    100% electric transportation and 100% solar by 2030

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