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I am PCUSA … and PRO-Fossil Fuel … What does blanket divestment REALLY accomplish

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For my part in the Presbyterian Church USA’s debate over divestment of church funds from fossil fuel producers (and the vote that will be coming up this week in the bi-annual gathering of PC-USA’s General Assembly) I have suggested more than once that a blanket divestment is NOT the answer. I have recommended an alternative … redirected investment of funds into responsible/moral fossil fuels producers.

WITH RESPECT, AND WITH AN OPENNESS TO DISCUSSION, I want to ask proponents of blanket divestment … what does it REALLY accomplish? Sure, it’s easy to do … and when it’s done, you feel good … but couldn’t you have done so much more? Here are some points to consider, on how you could accomplish ‘so much more’ through redirected investment, rather than blanket divestment …

• Encourage responsible/moral production – In a previous post, I offered criteria for assessing fossil fuel producers, and determining whether their means of production was responsible/moral. If producers in which PCUSA funds are currently do not meet your criteria, pull almost all of those funds out, and reinvest them in producers who do meet those criteria.

• Continue to have a voice – Why do I say “almost all?” Because as long as you have even a small share of the company’s stock, you have a voice at stockholder meetings and other gatherings where you can raise concerns, and recommend measures to address those concerns.

• If not you, then who? – Trust me on this … blanket divestment by PCUSA will not hurt fossil fuel producers where it matters most – the pocketbook. They will easily recoup those losses, with funds from investors who don’t give a flip about creation care, and will reinforce the company’s commitment to business-as-usual.

• Setting an example for others – The Presbyterian Church USA is not the only entity out there that is pro-creation care. Unfortunately, the denomination’s more extreme voices are easily dismissed as ‘tree-hugger’ rhetoric by equally-extreme advocates for business-as-usual … not unlike the debates between extremists in the polical debates this presidential election year. Isn’t there some room in between the two extremes, a more moderate position that brings people closer together in important issues, rather than driving them further apart? What if it were possible to set an example of pro-business investments that encourage responsible, even moral fossil fuel production?

These are some of my thoughts in this discussion. What do YOU think, and what discussion points would you offer?

NOTE: As the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA meets in Portland this week and considers demands for an immediate and total, blanket divestment of the denomination’s investment funds from “fossil fuel producers,” I have to ask … is blanket divestment the answer? Shouldn’t we, instead, consider reinvestment of those funds into responsible – even moral – fossil fuel producers?

Let me give you some idea of my background – the context in which I am composing these posts. It’s important to the consideration – if any! – that you will give to my posts.

For the past 32 years, I have lived and worked in and around the city of Midland, in the western region of Texas … smack-dab in the middle of what they call ‘the oil patch.’ There is some cattle and some cotton in the foundation of this community, but most of Midland today is built upon the energy industry, and the production of oil and natural gas plays a major -even predominant role – in our local economy.

I do not work directly for the energy industry … though I have been happily married those same 32 years to someone who is. As for me, I first worked in in this part of Texas as a contract archaeologist … but my vocation has changed more than once with the ups and downs – especially the downs! – in the energy industry over the past three decades. So I have also worked as a television writer/producer, a newspaper reporter/editor, a website/social media manager, and for the past eight years in the public information and media office of a community college.

This has given me a tremendous opportunity to observe the industry ‘up-close and personal,’ as we used to say in the news business. I suggest that I might have more insight than some others into the industry, its people, its technology and practices, and the changes in said technology and practices. I have seen, reported-on and learned from – to borrow a phrase from a movie title – the good, the bad and the ugly of fossil fuel production … and the beautiful, as well.

Let me qualify that last paragraph, though … my experience observing fossil fuel producers has been exclusively with oil and natural gas. I have no such current experience with the coal industry, and I am not qualified to comment upon changes that may have taken place in their technology and practices. When it comes to coal, all I have to go on are the 50-year-old memories I have of that industry – actually, the remnants of that industry – in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area of northeastern Pennsylvania … observations which helped set my course down the environmentalism path as a teenager way-back-when.

Anyway, that is where I come from. Where I am going, in the days ahead, is to develop my pro-fossil fuel thesis, and to suggest options for a position within the Presbyterian Church USA that still promotes protection and restoration of God’s creation, yet encourages responsible – even moral – energy production that includes fossil fuels. Thank you for your time in reading the above. I welcome any comments you wish to make in the space below … regardless of your stance on fossil fuel production. It is my hope that this will be the start of a discussion among those who ultimately share a common goal, a common destination … though for now, we may be reaching it by different paths.

There's a saying around here, something like, "I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could!" That's me. I'm a 'dang Yankee from back-east' who settled in the Lone Star State after some extended stays in the eastern U.S., and New Mexico. I worked as an archaeologist for a few years before dusting off my second major in English, and embarking on a 25-year career in journalism. Since then, I've embraced the dark side of the force, and now work in PR for a community college in Midland, Texas.

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