Guest Blog: Fossil Fuel Company Divestment & Renewable Energy Reinvestment

Fossil Fuel Company Divestment & Renewable Energy Reinvestment

Fran Teplitz, Policy Director, Green America

The fossil fuel divestment movement continues to grow nationally and internationally as individuals and institutions — including pension funds, institutions of higher learning, and philanthropic endowments –recognize the importance of ridding their portfolios of fossil fuel companies. As we see time again, whether the issue is divestment from apartheid South Africa, divestment from the Sudan, or divestment from tobacco, when investors add the the power of their voice and their assets to social movements, the pace of change can accelerate.

Divestment intensifies public, media, and policy-maker attention to issues and signals that the stakes of inaction are unacceptable. This is certainly true for the climate crisis, in which the threats to human and environmental health continue to mount – especially for populations and ecosystems with no defense.

The fossil fuel company divestment movement, sparked by, urges investors to divest their portfolios of the top 200 fossil fuel companies. As extreme weather events become more common and the level of carbon pollution continues to rise – exceeding in some areas the 350 parts per million deemed the safest upper limit – all sectors of society need to take  action to shift global energy use toward renewable energy and energy efficiency. As 2014 opened, a coalition of foundations, with aggregated assets of $1.8 billion, announced their fossil fuel company divestment plans, giving an important boost to the divestment movement. At the same time, we see the continued development of fossil fuel company-free investment products including progress toward the first fossil free indexes that will help individuals create low carbon portfolios.

More and more investors understand that divestment is the right thing to do from the perspective of planetary well-being – as well as from a fiduciary perspective. Financial analysts are realizing that fossil fuel companies are over-valued and pose increasing risk to investors. We are now at the point where we cannot burn the reserves that fossil fuel companies already have without exceeding the two degree Celsius rise in temperature, over preindustrial levels, that scientists globally agree we must remain under for planetary health. At current carbon dioxide emission rates, we are likely to exceed this threshold.

Green America’s new Guide to Fossil Fuel Divestment and Clean Energy Reinvesting can help individuals, in our roles as investors and consumers, to create the clean energy economy upon which the future depends.

The Guide provides resources to help individuals get started in aligning their investments with their commitment to addressing climate change. Key steps include:

1. Divest Your Fossil-Fuel-Company Holdings

If you own direct company stock, sell any investments in the top 200 companies holding the most fossil-fuel reserves. If you only own mutual funds, call your mutual fund companies and urge them to offer fossil-free options. If they can’t, or won’t, tell them you’ll be shifting more of your mutual fund investing to mutual fund companies that offer fossil fuel company -free funds. Develop a divestment plan so you can meet your financial needs without adding to global change.

2. Reinvest in Clean Energy and Fossil-Free Products

Buy fossil-free stocks in consultation with your financial planner, invest in fossil-free mutual funds and ETFs, or invest in crowd-sourced solar projects.

3. Invest in Clean Energy for Your Home and Community

Boost your home’s value by installing clean energy, or look into community solar opportunities, on the rise nationwide. There are shared renewable energy options for people who rent and a number of utilities themselves that offer clean energy, as well as resellers like PEAR and Ethical Electric that actively work to build more clean energy sources.

4. Shift Your Bank Accounts and Credit Cards

Don’t do business with conventional mega-banks heavily invested in fossil fuels. Move your checking and savings accounts and credit cards to community development banks. Find resources at  and

5. Support Institutional Divestment Movements

Work with your city, house of worship, university, or other groups that may be invested in fossil fuels. Find ongoing campaigns at

Each of us has a responsibility to take as many actions as we can to reverse global warming. If enough of us – citizens, policy makers, businesses, investors, and scientists –take action, we can build a clean energy economy that will serve us for generations to come.


FranFran serves as the Director of Social Investing & Policy at Green America. Green America is a nonprofit membership based organization in Washington, DC that involves consumers, businesses and investors in economic strategies to advance positive social and environmental change. Fran joined the organization in 2000 and manages Green America’s role in various coalitions related to sustainable business and economics, climate change, and other policy issues. She also directs Green America’s work on socially and environmentally responsible investing.

Fran worked with Peace Action and the Peace Action Education Fund for seven years before joining Green America. Prior to Peace Action, she worked on U.S. policy toward Central America.  She holds a Master’s Degree from the Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and earned her undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis in Political Science. 

Guest Blog: Rebecca Ruggles on the Bay Watershed Agreement

What does it mean when a public entity holds a two hour public comment session and it is over in about an hour?  Not a good sign!

Those of us who went to speak at the Chesapeake Bay Program’s public session on the final draft of the Bay Watershed Agreement had time for reflection after the meeting.  It only took about an hour.  We had blocked from 10 to noon, and about a dozen of us did speak.  But as one commenter noted, “There should be people creating a traffic jam on Forest Drive this morning and standing in a line down that hallway.”

The reason they were not, we think, is because they know this Agreement is not worth their time.

What are its flaws?

Claudia Friedetzsky of Maryland Sierra Club asked the Management Board to add a focus on climate change and measurable goals related to climate change adaptation.  Failing to mention such a massive threat showed the Bay Program lagging behind scientists and the public consensus.  We need your leadership on this, she said.

Jill Witkowski from the Choose Clean Water Coalition explained why senior Chesapeake Bay Scientists and policymakers developed an alternative, the Citizen’s Bay Agreement with 25 action steps.

Ruth Berlin of the Maryland Pesticide Network asked the Commission to address toxics, citing human and environmental threats and the full documentation of the toxic contaminants in the Bay, from the EPA’s December 2012 report.

I added that the Maryland Environmental Health Network has recently done a brief assessment of best practices for reducing pesticides in urban waterways.  “The experts agree we need more information, and the field is thin.  The goal you rejected last summer is so reasonable and minimal.  MdEHN asks that you reconsider and add this to the Agreement.”

Then I read a synopsis of the very simple proposed addition they had considered last summer and rejected: “Assess research to improve knowledge of effects of contaminants by 2015 so future strategies can be considered.”

Such an extremely modest thing to propose – but shot down as not needed!

Perhaps the most striking assessment of the Final Draft of the Bay Watershed Agreement, which is supposed to establish a basis for collaboration across the political boundaries of watershed, was given by Ray Sullivan of Save Your Annapolis Neck.

I didn’t write down his exact words but his point was powerful.  “Why are no real estate developers, no one from agriculture or the chemical industry here today commenting on this agreement?  It’s because they already got everything they want.  They know this is a toothless agreement!”

Next time when I’m sitting through a long hearing or waiting my turn to speak on a long list, I’ll remember this experience at the Management Board meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Program.  Better to be part of a noisy throng fighting to get the future right, than working on something that has no chance of making a difference.


rebeccaRebecca Ruggles is Director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network. She was formerly Director of Special Projects at Baltimore Medical System (BMS), a community health system serving Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Rebecca consults to the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers as the coordinator of the Green Funders affinity group. She sits on the Board of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (formerly Chesapeake Covenant Community), a network of congregations and people of faith pursuing better stewardship of our natural world. She is a member of the Health Care Sustainability Leadership Council and an active member of the Greater Baltimore Asthma Alliance.




Does anyone really buy the incredibly thin arguments in Dominion’s Cove Point advertisements?  One ad in particular, that continues to pollute my radio and Pandora airwaves (see what I did there?), attempts to use large numbers to distract the audience from the LNG expansion’s impact on public health and the environment.

Terry Eno of Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community said it best, “Dominion bombards our community daily with high priced ads because they knew if the public really understood this project that we would oppose it.”  I know this is a shock.  Why on earth would a fossil fuel company use numbers and dollar signs to manipulate the public?

tumblr_inline_n28k5nq2Gn1qeqisdApparently this is “another great solution for Southern Maryland.”  I’m curious what do they really mean by a great solution?  Do they mean the significant public health impacts?  Asthma? Cancer?  Is a great solution the amount of pollution this facility will emit and the accumulative impact on climate change in Maryland? Is the great solution the threat of an environmental disaster in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?  Is the great solution creating the largest greenhouse gas emitter in Maryland?  Dominion, please use your thin arguments to explain to me how this is another great solution for Maryland.


They glamorize the project for creating over a thousand jobs, but fail to mention only 75 of those are permanent.  Of that, how many will be filled by Calvert County residents?  How does the tax revenue for the county hold up when public health issues rise and high priced clean up efforts are required because of contaminated water, facility accidents, or extreme weather?

This is a “great solution” because it is great for Dominion, not because it is great for Maryland.  This is an opportunity for Dominion to increase their profits at the expense of the health, safety, and environment of Maryland.  If this expansion happens, do you really think fracking will not take place in Maryland?  We are not just talking about fracking in Western Maryland, there are shale basins across the entire state.

If we really want to talk about another “great solution” for Southern Maryland we should be talking about clean energy projects not a 3.8 billion dollar expansion to a facility whose total operation will become the largest greenhouse gas emitter in Maryland.  A real solution would be supporting projects that increase Maryland’s use of renewable energy and achieve the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals; without the expense of the public’s health or surrounding environment.  That would be a real solution.

Dominion should not even be allowed to use the term “solution” because all this project will do is exacerbate climate change and fossil fuel dependence.  The LNG expansion of Cove Point is not another great solution for Southern Maryland, it is a profitable opportunity for Dominion, and anyone that believes otherwise needs to seriously reevaluate their life choices.