By WILL ANDERSON
Refuel Our Future, a student group dedicated to fighting climate change by urging the University to sell its investments in fossil fuel companies, is renewing its efforts this year as fossil fuel divestment becomes more common worldwide.
Recently, the Rockefeller family of Standard Oil fame, the British newspaper The Guardian and several environmental groups have called for complete elimination of fossil fuel investments. The sovereign wealth fund of Norway, which exists because of profits the Norwegian government has made from its offshore oil drilling, has also divested from coal.
Refuel Our Future has been actively recruiting since the start of the semester, hoping to add to its ranks. On Thursday they held an event on the Freshman Quad that was attended by over 50 students, which, combined with the sign-ups from the Student Involvement Fair (SIF), totals about 100 students.
Sophomore board member Nina Krauss spoke about Refuel’s mission to divest the University’s endowment from fossil fuels.
“We are working currently on recruiting new members, anyone who wants to get their voice heard,” Krauss said. “We’re also working on the other front, the administration, to get our 12 page research proposal into them. It’s going to be ready ideally this semester, and it depends on how many faculty we can get to read it in time. They get busy as well, and we would like to get their feedback before we submit it because we speak for the community. The proposal is drafted.”
Krauss discussed a faculty petition to be released when 50 signatures are collected. Refuel has received blowback from professors before, once visible in an attempt to convince the group to focus on a carbon tax campaign.
“We do get opposition. We want to say that people may have a misconception that we think that divestment is a panacea, or that it will let people off the hook. It’s not,” Krauss said. “Fossil fuel divestment is a global initiative. We work with Harvard, MIT, Swarthmore. Stanford recently divested from coal specifically, and they’re pushing for more.”
Krauss noted that this movement is for the social progress of society.
“Rockefeller’s estate is divesting. Mark Ruffalo divested. Churches divest. It’s not just universities, and it’s not just us,” Krauss said. “It’s a global movement, and it’s more about social change than purely finance. We want to be a part of that and represent the community.”
Krauss described how the University has been difficult to work with during the campaign and stated that over $300 million of the endowment is invested in fossil fuel companies. A survey on the Student Government Association (SGA) ballot in 2012 indicated that 73 percent of students were in favor of divestment.
“To be honest, the University has not been transparent where its funding goes,” Krauss said. “In 2012 we actually had to have The Baltimore Sun help us find out exactly where our money is going. We also work with Daniel Ennis [Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration]. Currently less than one percent is invested, but for an approximately $3.5 billion endowment, that’s still a fair amount of money for something that undergrads don’t want.”
Krauss spoke about what she wants Refuel’s draft proposal to accomplish this year.
“We’re prepared for a no. Ideally we want a yes, but we’re willing to work with the Administration either way. The reason we’re an official student group is because we want to be a voice for the community and Hopkins,” she said. “Help us not let the Administration push our voices aside. Either side you’re on, just think about where our money is going, whatever issue speaks to you. Money talks. We have a proposal that the University is seriously considering.”
Freshman Clarissa Chen was not aware of divestment before speaking to Refuel members.
“I didn’t know that there was an activism group on campus that was working towards getting Hopkins to divest from fossil fuels,” she said.
Freshman David Gumino is aware of and passionate about Refuel’s mission.
“I knew that, based on previous talks, that Hopkins was putting around $300,000 into fossil fuels, which I disagreed with, which is why I signed up for more information,” he said.
Chen spoke about what she hopes renewable energy could do in the future.
“I hope it goes towards renewable energy, and I think that a lot of companies are starting to do that now. And there are definitely some companies that run entirely on renewable energy,” Chen said. “At a certain point, people are going to have to start turning to that, but I don’t know if that will happen in the near future.”
Transitioning towards renewable energy is important for Gumino as well.
“Fossil fuel industries are going to keep growing, gasoline prices will still go up. But until we find a viable alternative form of energy, [fossil fuels] are always going to be there. So I think we should divest now rather than later,” Gumino said.