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Boston University to join Harvard in divesting from fossil-fuel stocks

The BU board of trustees voted yesterday to begin selling off the university's holdings in fossil-fuel companies, school President Robert Brown announced today.

In e-mail to the BU community, Brown said that effective immediately, school investment managers will no longer make any purchases in companies that sell carbon-releasing energy products and to start looking for investments in fossil-fuel‐free products.

The school will begin to sell off the holdings it already has in such energy companies, but over time, possibly as long as a decade, "to avoid large financial losses associated with rapid sale of finite‐lived private equity investments."

Harvard announced a similar fossil phase out on Sept. 9.

Brown added that BU trustees also asked the school investment office to look at ways to "measure greenhouse gas emissions generated by the endowment investment managers’ underlying corporate holdings" and to come up with ways to offset those entities’ net emissions," with the idea of moving to net-zero greenhouse-gas investment holdings by 2050.

Brown continued that the change in investment policy, while important, is a small part of BU's overall plan to do its part "to prevent the global calamity caused by climate change" that includes retrofitting all of the school's 345 buildings to reduce their energy use, the launch of a wind-power project to match the school's energy use for the next 15 years and research by BU professors and students to develop "new technologies that have the potential to radically reduce energy consumption and mitigate the worst effects of global warming." He ends:

As we have learned to live and work with the virus that causes COVID-19, we face another silent killer that is ultimately more dangerous than a virus. We face the challenge of changing our way of life at unprecedented speed if we are going to preserve the Earth’s environment as we know it.

PDF icon Brown's complete letter77.52 KB

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What about brain-fossilizing stocks, like Facebook?

no longer make any purchases in companies that sell carbon-releasing energy products

That's pretty extreme. It includes every automaker except Tesla, and every major retailer including Walmart, Home Depot, and Amazon.com.


And maybe BU wasn't clear in what they meant, but I think "companies that sell carbon-releasing energy products" means mainly oil and natural gas companies. Yes you can buy a tank of propane at Walmart and Home Depot, but they are just selling a product that someone else created. I don't think every store that sells Duraflame Logs will be banned from the BU investment list.


Some BU people were really, really against the new gas transfer station in Weymouth.

Yet, a lot of BU buildings are lit up like Christmas trees well into the night. That is shocking, shocking I say hypocrisy from the ivory tower on their do as I say, not do as I do actions.

Want to save the earth? Put more solar panels up on your buildings, more stop motion lights, or just turn off the lights, use only electric vehicles on campus and push your suppliers to do the same.

If not, shaddup about your divestment because you are still getting the benefits of carbon based energy.


John, BU sources 100% of its electricity from wind, so you’re incorrect about your lighting comment. But you bet we’ll always be demanding more reductions in fossil fuels. Not only should we electrify our fleet, we should reduce it by using more bikes, e-bikes & cargo bikes. We should put solar panels wherever we can. We should get off dirty, leaking, unsafe natural gas altogether.
The Weymouth Compressor is not a “transfer site”. It’s a 7,700 hp high pressure methane transmission compressor which Charlie Baker was paid $117k by Enbridge reps to rubber stamp. And it’s for export to the global LNG market, not domestic consumption. Get your facts straight, and if you reply, be prepared to defend corrupt Charlie Baker when I go into more depth on his corruption.


I'm fairly sure BU is getting its power from the regional grid, which means about half natural gas and only a fairly small amount of renewables: https://www.iso-ne.com/

What they're likely doing is paying for renewable energy credits as part of a cap-and-trade system, removing those credits from the system and incentivizing renewables development. That's absolutely better than not doing it, but they're also still causing natural gas to be burned; reducing energy usage overall is still super important.


Oil / Natural Gas and to a lesser extent Coal are international commodities.

Let's not hop too hard on the "domestic consumption" thing when we get a lot of juice from hydro in Quebec.

A lot of our gasoline around here gets refined in New Brunswick, especially if you go to an Irving.

Just for kicks, don't put up a Christmas tree, it is most likely coming down from Quebec too.

The absolute hysteria caused by the people protesting Weymouth was comical. (Hingham would be incinerated, etc., people going on hunger strikes, people showing up in SUV's to the protests) was funny as hell. You never really paid much attention to it when it was a Weymouth / Quincy Point (working class) issue, only when it became No Compressor Station - South Shore (upper middle class) did everyone's ire get raised.

You go ahead and wax polemic on Charlie Baker. I really don't care. Must be nice to be able to waste time like the guy who is taking public transit south. Someday I hope I have that luxury.

Also, just because BU is sourcing wind, great. Now stop using so much of the electricity generated by it and save some for the rest of us.

the extraction industry. I wonder: does that include businesses that cut down trees to make charcoal? Seems like an edge case that should be included, much as I love real barbecue and traditional yakitori.

Charcoal comes from recent wood; it’s not a fossil fuel.


Is surely twisting right now


good. it pains me to know that some of my tuition went to that odious D.I.N.O. p-o-s


always looked like a Bond villain to me, not that that influenced my vote for Weld over that once-liberal, late-in-life reactionary. A good example of why the thin-skinned don't belong in politics: he had a hair-trigger temper that would have made me question his suitability for Governor even if I'd agreed with his politics.


After reading the letter, it looks to me like the administration is simply kicking the can down the road ten years. Nothing is happening immediately, and they can still keep the investments as long as they aren't direct (got a mutual that invests in oil? no problem).

It's the same lip service as a few years ago when BU announced they were 'going green' with wind energy. Posters everywhere. It really was that BU had bought a bunch of carbon offsets from some wind farm in Kansas...no change in the actual pollution BU produces. My guess is that they turned around a few years later and sold the credits for cash.

The same thinking gives us LEEDS Gold buildings where you can't open any of the windows and doors on those buildings that won't open because of the pressure differential between outside and in.


by using the electricity.

Lets just hope that no one notices how many dinosaurs these campuses burn in winter for heating