Descendants of John D. Rockefeller, an oil baron who made its fortune in the oil industry in the late 19th century, are now divesting from fossil fuels.
The Rockefeller Family Fund, created in 1967, this week “proudly announced” it would divest from fossil fuels.
“The process will be completed as quickly as possible, as we work around the complications of modern finance, which is increasingly dominated by alternative investments and hedge funds,” the fund, owing its wealth to fossil fuels, said in a statement.
The fund said that while the global community works to eliminate the use of fossil fuels “it makes little sense—financially or ethically—to continue holding investments in these companies.”
It added that there was no sane rationale for companies to continue to explore for new sources of hydrocarbons.
“The science and intent enunciated by the Paris agreement cannot be more clear: far from finding additional sources of fossil fuels, we must keep most of the already discovered reserves in the ground if there is any hope for human and natural ecosystems to survive and thrive in the decades ahead,” reads a statement by the Rockefeller Family Fund.
John D. Rockefeller, considered one of the U.S. richest men in history, was one of the world’s first billionaires, earning his cash in the oil business through his company Standard Oil.
Rockefeller established Standard Oil in 1870 and turned into one of the the world’s first and largest oil companies and multinational corporations in general. In 1911, U.S. authorities ordered that Standard Oil, be dissolved into 34 smaller companies, breaking up what they ruled was a monopoly.
One of the largest descendants of Standard Oil are today’s ExxonMobil and Chevron.
In its statement this week on divesting its oil interest, the Rockefeller Family Fund took a swing at ExxonMobil, disassociating itself from “a company with such apparent contempt for the public interest.”
The Rockefeller Family Fund said: “We would be remiss if we failed to focus on what we believe to be the morally reprehensible conduct on the part of ExxonMobil. Evidence appears to suggest that the company worked since the 1980s to confuse the public about climate change’s march, while simultaneously spending millions to fortify its own infrastructure against climate change’s destructive consequences and track new exploration opportunities as the Arctic’s ice receded. Appropriate authorities will determine if the company violated any laws, but as a matter of good governance, we cannot be associated with a company exhibiting such apparent contempt for the public interest.”
Washing hands from ExxonMobil
The fund’s board has instructed its advisors “effective immediately” to eliminate holdings of ExxonMobil, and all coal, and tar sands-based companies outside the portions of the portfolio managed by third parties, and to keep exposures for these three categories of investment below 1 percent across the entire portfolio. The Family Fund’s Finance Committee will soon be entering the second phase of its divestment work, which will entail seeking suitable alternatives to certain commingled funds now held. The field of Socially Responsible Investing is dynamic and growing and we are confident that a variety of options will soon emerge for mid-sized endowments such as ours, the fund said.
However, they did acknowledge the enormous contribution the oil industry has had in the making of the Rockefeller family wealth.
“Needless to say, the Rockefeller family has had a long and profitable history investing in the oil industry, including ExxonMobil. These are not decisions, therefore, that have been taken lightly or without much consideration of their import. But history moves on, as it must. Indeed, it is past time for all people of good will to do everything in their collective power to make our new path one that recognizes the deep interdependence between humanity’s future and the health of our natural systems,” the fund concluded.
Climate change clash
ExxonMobil has denied media allegations claiming the company was aware of the role of fossil fuels in global warming after several U.S. politicians asked for federal investigation to be launched.
Following an eight-month investigation, InsideClimate News, a news organization covering clean energy, carbon energy, nuclear energy and environmental science, has claimed that ExxonMobil’s research confirmed fossil fuels’ role in global warming decades ago.
In addition, according to Los Angeles Times, the oil company’s scientists concluded in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s that climate change was real, would transform the Earth’s landscape and was driven by human activity — especially the burning of fossil fuels.
In a statement in October 2015 ExxonMobil said:
“For nearly 40 years we have supported development of climate science in partnership with governments and academic institutions, and did and continue to do that work in an open and transparent way,” said Ken Cohen, vice president of public and government affairs.
“Activists deliberately cherry-picked statements attributed to various company employees to wrongly suggest definitive conclusions were reached decades ago by company researchers. These activists took those statements out of context and ignored other readily available statements demonstrating that our researchers recognized the developing nature of climate science at the time which, in fact, mirrored global understanding.”
The company said that both InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times ignored evidence provided by the company of continuous and publicly available climate research that refuted their claims.
Regarding the announcement by the Rockefeller Family Fund, Bloomberg has managed to obtain a statement from an ExxonMobil spokesperson.
“It’s not surprising that they’re divesting from the company since they’re already funding a conspiracy against us,” Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for Irving, Texas-based Exxon, said in an e-mail sent to Bloomberg on Wednesday.
Offshore Energy Today Staff