A funny thing happened to the latest unrealistic anti-fossil fuel divestment movement on an elite college campus: the real environmentalists didn't show up! In fact, when more than 150 Columbia University students and faculty presented their divestment demands to Columbia President Lee Bollinger last month, the leading faculty members at the University's staunchly pro-environmental Earth Institute refused to join in.
Then they did something even better than that, as the executive director of the Institute openly questioned the divestment movement and called it hypocritical and ineffective when conducted by people who use and rely on fossil fuels every day.
And finally, we had the really best part: the same executive director said that investing, not divesting, is the best way to save the environment and insisted that developing new technologies should be focus for those trying to replace fossil fuels. In other words, "let the free market fix it."
Well, I have good news for everyone who truly wants to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution and bad news for those who are more interested in beating up on corporate America: the free market already is cleaning the air. And it's doing it faster, better and cheaper than the radical alternative energy movement could ever hope to do it.
The International Energy Agency gave us proof of that on Friday, when it announced that worldwide carbon emission totals froze in 2014 despite no worldwide recession, That's the first time in 40 years of IEA monitoring that we've seen that happen. And while activists, politicians, and non-fossil fuel companies will try to take the credit, it's actually a fossil fuel that's most responsible for all of this: natural gas. Free market driven innovations like fracking have made nat gas more abundant and cheaper than ever. It's being used for new purposes all the time in addition to its key role in the crucial replacement of the much dirtier coal-based energy production. Nat gas produces about half the emissions as coal, and every time a factory or a power plant switches to nat gas, it's basically more effective than every greenie protest march put together.
So the Ivory Tower academics can divest all they want, but even a growing number of their fellow academics know the only way to make real changes is to invest and trust in the free market. Nat gas isn't an answer for the radical leftists, because they're more interested in destroying capitalism than reducing emissions. But thank goodness there are some honest experts like the folks at the Earth Institute who may not love nat gas either, but they still recognize the real path to cleaner energy.