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Opinion
Megan McArdle

College Students Can't Defeat Big Oil

The idea of divestment from fossil fuels is gaining traction on U.S. college campuses. The odds of this movement having any impact at all on the consumption of fossil fuels are statistically indistinguishable from zero.
That's nice.
That's nice.

The idea of divestment from fossil fuels is gaining traction on U.S. college campuses. Last year, student activists famously disrupted a Swarthmore College open meeting where the issue was being discussed, which I filed away under "people with too much time on their hands and an insufficient grounding in enlightenment values." But according to the Wall Street Journal, the movement is having some effect: Several major endowments, including Stanford's, have divested from fossil fuels.

I find this sort of riveting. I think the odds of this movement having any impact at all on the consumption of fossil fuels are statistically indistinguishable from zero. So why are endowments giving in, and thereby sacrificing potential returns? Why, for that matter, has this so fixated the students?