Divestment Movement Dismissed as Propaganda Effort by National Association of Scholars

Published January 18, 2016

A new study by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) says the fossil-fuel divestment movement, currently active on more than 1,000 college and university campuses in the United States, is an attack on intellectual freedom, democratic self-government, and responsible stewardship of natural resources.

NAS researchers conclude most divestments are empty political gestures that have little or no financial effect on fossil fuel companies. On average, NAS found divestment decisions on average affect about 1 percent of a college’s endowment and leaves approximately 50 percent of fossil fuel investments in place.

Radicalizing Students Against Fossil Fuels

Peter Wood, president of NAS, says the divestment movement is about radicalizing college students with hostility toward fossil-fuel use.

“The leaders of the movement are quite candid about it not being able to succeed in reaching its goals of getting the country off of fossil fuels or universities divesting their shares in fossil fuels,” Wood said. “But what they are hoping for is to use the colleges as an avenue to radicalize a substantial number of young adults into a permanent opposition to fossil fuels.”

Two major leaders of the movement are Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben, Wood notes.

“Klein is definitely an anti-capitalist, and she sees the elimination of fossil fuels as a necessary step to undermine Western Civilization and do away with it entirely,” Wood said. “McKibben is a utopian primitivist who would like to see 90 percent of the world’s population disappear and the world return to a level of subsistence agriculture.” 

‘Consequences Are Enormous’

Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, says the study reveals what many people have long suspected about this movement and many on the green Left.

“In essence, green-Left activists have become paid public relations firms for business people who want them to do their bidding,” Kish said. 

“The divestment movement, like all parts of the green Left, has at its core a rejection of private enterprise and private decision-making, and [it] seeks to replace consumer choice with government orders,” Kish said.

“The implications for the affordable energy that is the basis for our economy are enormous, because it is their deliberate intention to make energy prices skyrocket so that people will use less energy,” Kish said. “And by using less energy, America will become less energetic.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.


Rachelle Peterson, Inside Divestment: The Illiberal Movement to Turn a Generation Against Fossil Fuels, National Association of Scholars, November 2015: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/inside-divestment-illiberal-movement-turn-generation-against-fossil-fuels