BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
di•vest verb dī-ˈvest, də-: to sell (something valuable, such as property or stocks)
For the purposes of this article, divest refers to what must be done with stocks of fossil-fuel (energy) companies— coal, oil, gas. Many charitable foundations have started to do this, and not just out of the goodness of their “hearts” or principles. Rather, the smart money is realizing something that isn’t immediately obvious.
When anyone buys stocks, they’re paying for the company’s value: its assets, its potential earning power (translating into dividends paid), and its potential for growth/increased stock value. In the case of the “dirty” energy companies, part of their value rests in what they own that’s still underground. But, people are starting to realize that we can’t possibly afford to burn all that coal, oil, and gas and still maintain our lives as we know it. Therefore, the value of all that stuff in the ground is staring to decrease, and with it, the value of those companies’ stocks. Simultaneously, the cost of other, competing, and cleaner energy sources is decreasing, rendering such stocks more appealing.
It’s time for all of us to do the same. If you buy stocks directly, don’t buy those of companies that produce hydrocarbon fuels for consumption, or those of companies that enable such production (drilling rig manufacturers for instance).
There have been many campaigns urging divestiture. The most notable success is the one organized against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. There’s one going on now against Israel, with minimal success. Armenians should be doing it with Turkey. And now there’s one to get out of fossil fuels called Global Divest-Invest Coalition, as well as others working towards the same goal.
in•vest verb in-ˈvest: to commit (money) in order to earn a financial return
Obviously, money will be invested somewhere, especially when it’s pulled out of one stock, it will likely go into another stock. The place to put such money is in so-called “alternative” or “sustainable” energy. Companies that are building up solar and wind infrastructure deserve investment. If they are doing “distributed” solar (i.e. solar panels or heating systems on homes rather than huge centralized generation plants) they are even more worthy of our investment dollars. Then there are outfits which are building small wind turbines and small hydropower systems. The idea is to enable moving away from dirty (hydrocarbon) sources of energy, and into clean ones while minimizing the need for huge systems that cause other environmental harm (for example, you might have read about a solar power plant in California’s desert that gathers the sun’s heat; unfortunately, it works in such a way that birds are singed, or even burnt to death when they fly through it).
dis•in•fest verb ˌdis-in-ˈfest: to rid of small animal pests (as insects or rodents)
Why is this issue being addressed in an Armenian context? Simple. There’s a pest, with an overblown ego, running Azerbaijan. What’s enabling this pest is dirty, fossil-fuel, money—oil and gas dollars.
We, Armenians now have a double incentive to shift the energy industry towards alternative and sustainable sources. As human beings, we must support this shift if we want human civilization to survive more or less intact. As Armenians, eliminating the source money of our most corrupt, possibly mentally unstable, and belligerent antagonist is simply smart politics—let’s help devalue Aliyev’s (or Azerbaijan’s, there’s not much of a distinction these days) oil and gas. It will render him and his artificial country less relevant to the world, and thereby less dangerous to the Republic of Armenia and Artzakh.