Survey reveals what pension fund holders think of fossil fuel divestment

When we wind up talking about divestment campaigns these days one of the most frequent topics under discussion is Israel, but that’s not the only target of liberal activists using these tactics. There’s still a major push from the Left to persuade companies to pull their investment capital from the energy industry so as not to be associated with those dirty old fossil fuels. When colleges go that route (in the rare cases where they actually go through with it) they don’t face as much backlash because they retain control of their endowments and many of their alumni donors are of the liberal persuasion. But when you begin talking about funds set up for people relying on those returns for their pensions, what do the prospective pensioners themselves think about it?

The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) decided to find out, and they’ve just released the results of a national survey conducted among those who stand to gain (or lose) the most from these funds. Given the historic profitability of the energy sector as an investment tool, the results likely won’t be too shocking. (IPAA)

Coming on the heels of news this week that the District of Columbia Retirement Board intends to divest its direct financial holdings in hydrocarbon-energy producers, while not selling any of its larger commingled funds that contain many of the same stocks, the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) today unveiled major new research findings that for the first time quantify the opinions of those who stand to lose the most under activist-led divestment campaigns: the pension beneficiaries themselves.

Completed last month, the survey captures the views of nearly 800 individuals from all across the United States who self-identified as beneficiaries of pension-fund disbursements, with all respondents deriving pension-related income from prior service in the public sector. As such, the sample is composed primarily of retired teachers, fire and police officers, and state, municipal and federal government personnel.

Asked the question directly of whether they could support divestment if doing so could lead to lower returns, nearly two out of three respondents said they could not. Asked to name an industry from which they might be comfortable divesting under certain circumstances, only nine percent of respondents identified firms or industries related to oil and gas. In Texas, 88 percent of respondents said they would actively oppose divesting from oil and gas companies, and large majorities registered the same position in Pennsylvania (77 percent), Ohio (71 percent) and New York (72 percent) as well, among other states.

Some of this news is going to be rather uncomfortable for a few of the biggest supporters of the Democrats who typically push for divestment. The survey was conducted solely among public sector workers with pension funds on the line and that includes the teaches unions as well as government workers at all levels. The teachers unions in particular are the largest Super PACs the Democrats have and are always knee deep in liberal causes, but their members quite clearly don’t want to see their pension funds being yanked out of a proven performer.

The fund’s investors are also being made aware of what’s known as the “frictional costs” of divestment, which wind up draining even more cash from the funds with nothing to show for it. Combine that with transfers of capital into less reliably performing sectors and you’ve got a recipe for a far less reliable pension plan. How happy do you suppose the members are when they find out that their retirement plans will need to be put on hold because the people in charge of their pension fund had a beef with Chevron? More than anything else it sounds like a sure fire way to tick off anywhere from two thirds to three quarters of your membership. Well played, liberals!

Here are the links to .pdf files of the full survey data as provided by IPAA to peruse at your leisure.

The final survey findings memo can be found here. The top-line questions and answers for the survey can be accessed here.


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David Strom 8:01 AM on March 27, 2023