What is the Divestment campaign?

The divestment campaign is an attempt to generate support for radical, unpopular bans on fossil fuel use by calling on universities to officially condemn the fossil fuel industry.

The divestment campaign, according to its founder, Bill McKibben, is a new tactic to make the fossil fuel industry “Public Enemy Number One” and advance presently unpopular policies to virtually outlaw the production of energy from “fossil fuels” coal, oil, and natural gas. McKibben, in his most recent book, says that the next generation, despite being significantly larger, should be permitted to a mere 5% of the fossil fuels that we use today to produce 87% of their energy.

The tactic consists of persuading organizations with large investments in fossil fuel companies, particularly universities, to publicly renounce these investments as a means of shaming the industry and generating public sentiment that it should be dismantled.

McKibben’s organization, 350.org explains,

Divestment isn’t primarily an economic strategy, but a moral and political one. Just like in the struggle for Civil Rights here in America or the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa, the more we can make climate change a deeply moral issue, the more we will push society towards action. . . . [D]ivestment builds political power by forcing our nation’s most prominent institutions and individuals (many of whom sit on university boards) to choose which side of the issue they are on.


How did “Don’t Divest, Educate” come to be?

The open letter was initiated by Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress and I Love Fossil Fuels, to bring to light the compelling case for fossil fuels and against divestment—and to show that many of the nation’s top thinkers felt the same way.

The letter has three objectives:

  1. Call attention to the divestment movement’s attempt to indoctrinate students with an anti-fossil fuel ideology
  2. Challenge divestment supporters to openly debate the merits of fossil fuels
  3. Call on universities to reject demands for divestment, and instead drastically improve energy education

What is I Love Fossil Fuels?

I Love Fossil Fuels (ILFF) is a project of the (independent) Center for Industrial Progress aiming to foster a nationwide movement in support of fossil fuels and the fossil fuel industry.

I Love Fossil Fuels was created by Alex Epstein to offer a positive alternative to the anti-fossil-fuel movement, including the divestment campaign.

Epstein, author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuelswas the first person to publicly challenge the divestment campaign—he challenged McKibben to a debate on fossil fuels and, after hearing no response, offered McKibben $10,000 to debate him at Duke University. (McKibben accepted and participated, though refused to promote the debate.)

Epstein also participated in the largest challenge to the divestment movement to date. Scheduled to give his talk “Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet” at Vassar College, 350.org tried to have Epstein’s talk canceled and, when that failed, to get students to stage a walk out. The plan backfired, as explained by Julian Hassan, host of the event and founder of Vassar Loves Fossil Fuels.

Before Alex Epstein’s lecture no other students on my campus could imagine an environmental or moral defense of the fossil fuel industry. Moderate and conservative students were afraid that it would be social suicide to defend the fossil fuel industry, even though they were against divestment from fossil fuels. Students desperately tried to stop the lecture by vandalizing my door, writing insulting opinion editorials about Alex Epstein, threatening to do violence, trying to get me to pay Epstein not to come, tearing down our event posters, and staging a walk-out at the lecture.After Alex Epstein’s lecture anti-divestment students suddenly started using Epstein’s arguments. Now, weeks later, I am amazed at how they now defend the industry instead of just talking about the negative impacts on the college’s endowment. The moderates tell me that the decision to invite Epstein was the best thing we could have done. The Greens affiliated with 350.org who walked out on Epstein’s lecture faced an immediate campus backlash bigger than I had ever seen. We thought these environmentalists were undefeatable for the past three years, but now two weeks later I can say that they are no longer a powerful force on campus. Our campus newspaper publicly condemned the Greens in a staff editorial. Instead of becoming a social outcast, I am now a respected, influential student leader with a lot of campus sympathy and support.We were expecting to start a debate. Unsurprisingly, the Greens have been silent, but the anti-divestment advocates took Epstein’s advice and are now reading Bill McKibben’s books to expose his fanaticism in future articles. We suspect Epstein’s ideas are powerful enough to stop the national divestment movement. I have posted the press articles about Epstein’s Vassar talk on every divestment page in the country and many debates have started on Facebook walls. Also, I am contacting anti-divestment students at other schools in order to try to start an anti-divestment movement. Only Alex Epstein’s unique moral and environmental defense could have spurred me and countless others to defend the oil industry with passion and dedication.

This success and others made us believe that despite being a private company with nothing resembling the millions of dollars of activism handouts that 350.org, the Sierra Club, and others get, we could make a difference.

Note: The signatories of the letter are not necessarily members of ILFF. They have agreed to the statements made in the letter only and are not responsible for any other statements made on this website or elsewhere.

How can I get involved?

If you are a student, a professor, a member of the energy industry, or a concerned citizen, and you would like to keep up with the activities of I Love Fossil Fuels, click here to join the cause.

Students can find our guide to fighting divestment on campus here.

I’m a member of the media. How do I get in contact with you?

For media inquiries, write to support@industrialprogress.net.

Some of Epstein’s past media appearances can be viewed on our YouTube channel.