- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Faculty leaders at the University of Utah are calling on the school to get rid of investments associated with fossil fuels.

The resolution adopted Monday by the Academic Senate is being hailed by some as an important acknowledgement of global warming and derided by others as political grandstanding, reported The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/24rLDbw ).

University of Utah senior Matthew Kirkegaard, who helped lead a 2012 petition drive encouraging President David Pershing to remove fossil fuel investments from the endowment, said he supports the faculty’s decision.

“To me, that is so inspiring. They understand these investments are not compatible with what this university stands for,” Kirkegaard said.

It’s a potentially costly move for the University of Utah, however, because the state actively promotes oil and gas development, coal mining and the export of its coal overseas.

Energy sector investments make up about 7 percent of the university’s $700 million endowment and the school controls another $1.3 billion in investments that would be subject to the resolution, according to a report released by an ad hoc senate committee last year. The resolution acts as a recommendation to the university’s trustees, but the concept of shared governance means the senate resolution should carry substantial weight.

“I recognize there is more work we need to do on campus so people understand what divestment means and what it can mean for campus,” said librarian Joan Gregory, who helped write the resolution.

Unlike state lawmakers, most members of the Academic Senate agree that greenhouse gases are driving climate change and want to curb emissions. There is disagreement, however, over how to do that. Some critics say divestment is a divisive gesture and could undermine the school’s ability to research cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels.

“Has this industry refused to invest in alternative energy and other clean technologies? Not at all,” argued Ed Trujillo, an associate professor of chemical engineering, who said collaboration is a better way to tackle climate change.

The oil and gas industry has invested billions in emerging technologies, including $42 billion during a seven-year span for processes that address greenhouse gas emissions, Trujillo said.

“The problem is going to be solved by graduating talented engineers and scientists who will come up with new and better ways of producing the energy we need as a nation that is sustainable, economical and less harmful to our environment,” he said.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

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