Students Put Fossil Fuel Companies to the Test

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The last thing the coal and oil companies need right now is more negative publicity.

However, there is a growing campaign movement by students across the U.S. to have their universities dump investments in fossil fuel companies. There has been some success by the Fossil Free Campaign, but by leaps and bounds the biggest victory to date came Tuesday when Stanford University said it would divest its $18.7 billion endowment fund of coal-mining stock investments.

Now that's a head turner.

Ironically, this efforts comes at a time when more public-private efforts are needed with universities on innovative energy technologies.

Right now there are about 300 universities looking to shake up endowment and pension funds, which makes me believe the move by Stanford could become a new precedent other university endowment and pension funds are forced to emulate.

Coal companies are at most risk for being targets for university stock sales. With that said, all fossil fuel companies could eventually be on the hit list since more and more students are advocating for a cleaner future.

Harvard, the biggest college endowment fund in the country with $33 billion invested, may be the next major university to sell holdings in oil and coal companies despite reports suggesting otherwise. Why? Nearly 100 professors are joining students and protesting leaders of Harvard to not invest in industries that are helping to cause climate change.

Harvard is also the first U.S. endowment to pledge its commitment to sustainability and responsible investing to meet United Nations guidelines and "drive environmental disclosure and performance of publicly listed companies." Therefore a move by Harvard to drop fossil fuels from its core financial investments really seems just a matter of time. 

According to a 2013 survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund Institute, other notable college endowment funds include Yale University ($20.78 billion), Princeton University ($18.2 billion), MIT ($11 billion) and the University of Texas ($20.45 billion). 

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