Letter to the Editor: Divest NJ’s pension from fossil fuels now

To the Editor,

Writing for Forbes on May 29, contributor Dominic Dudley stated, “the cost of renewable energy has tumbled even further over the past year to the point where almost every source of green energy can now compete on cost with oil, coal and gas-fired power plants according to new data…” in a report released by Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA.)

Last week’s Princeton Packet Solutions column “Divesting habits and investments” written by Huck Fairman, focused on the campaign to divest the New Jersey State pension funds of fossil fuels led by a coalition of environmental groups including 350NJ.org, NJ Sierra Club, Environment NJ, Food & Water Watch, Green Faith and others.

The State Investment Council (SIC) is the body that oversees investments for the state pension funds. As a spokesperson for the DivestNJ Coalition, I have repeatedly emphasized to the SIC that this is a financial and fiduciary obligation, not only a moral one.

The fossil fuel sector has been declining in profitability for decades. Last year, it was the worst performing sector of the Standard & Poor’s 500 dragging the entire New Jersey pension portfolio down. If the SIC had invested in any other sector, it would have made more money for the pension funds. This is not only bad for pensioners but also for taxpayers whose dollars contribute to the pension plan each year.

All New Jerseyans should be concerned about continuing to invest in fossil fuels for both financial reasons and the immorality of these investments. Everyone should be joining our campaign and calling for divestment from fossil fuels now.

At the urging of DivestNJ, the SIC’s staff did a fossil free asset allocation study to assess whether the funds could make as much money or even more money by divesting. The results of this inquiry were reported out at its May meeting. Its conclusions were worrisome and perplexing.

The SIC’s staff concluded that demand for fossil fuels would peak in 2040 and that the transition to renewable energy sources would be slow and complex. If the SIC continues with this business as usual model, investing in fossil fuels for the next 20 years, what kind of world will we be living in? Scientists tell us that we have about 10 more years before catastrophic climate events will be an everyday global experience.

And Forbes is telling us that we are already seeing renewables replace fossil fuels because they are cost competitive. So today power plants in Indiana, the heart of coal country, are transitioning from coal to renewables because it is cheaper than any other fossil fuel. Prices have come down so quickly and will continue to do so. It has been head-spinningly fast, not as the SIC staff has stated “limited by the slow pace and complexity of the transition to renewable energy.” This is also true for the transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs), which has as quickly become the future of transportation.

DivestNJ encourages you to contact the NJ State Investment Council at https://www.state.nj.us/treas/doinvest/contactus.shtml and let the council know that, either as an active public employee, a retiree or a taxpayer you want them to divest from fossil fuels. Developing a divestment plan now protects pension members and taxpayers, as well as all of our children and generations to come.

Also, please sign our online petition by going to https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-the-nj-state-pension-funds-divest-fossil-fuel-investments-now-go-fossil-free-2/

If you want to get involved in the campaign or get more information, please contact DivestNJ Coalition through me, Tina Weishaus at tweishaus@gmail.com.

Tina Weishaus