Urban Dynamics Blog

Minneapolis City Council wants to divest from fossil fuels and reality

By Matt Johnson

According to the Star Tribune,

The Minneapolis City Council on Wednesday asked staff to explore ways the city could ‘stop doing business with financial institutions that invest in the fossil fuel industry and in projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline,’ including Wells Fargo.

Council Members Alondra Cano and Cam Gordon proposed that city staff report back by July on how the city could end its relationship with banks like Wells Fargo.

Fossil fuels are in most everything we use each day. As the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association explain it,

Fossil fuels are used to fuel cars and airplanes, power electricity plants, and heat our homes. They are also used to make medicines, cosmetics, plastics, synthetic fabrics, and lubricants. When you brushed your teeth today, you used a product made from oil – toothpaste. Look at your shoes – they are a product made from oil. Sunglasses, tires, tennis balls and TV’s are all products of oil and gas.

As you can see, they are an intricate part of our economy, including coffee. Yes! Coffee!

Assuming the council meeting was in the morning on Wednesday, December 7th , which it usually is (this blogger may have some experience in such matters), it is probably the case Council Members Alondra Cano and Cam Gordon stopped by the break room to grab some delicious coffee before heading to the city council chambers to unanimously pass anti-fossil fuel legislation. And so this is where the rubber (also made from fossil fuels) hits the road.

Everything from the production of the coffee container in the break room to the supply chain management system that is needed to move coffee product from one location to another requires energy, and that energy derives from fossil fuels, i.e., coffee production and the transportation system. Matter of fact, the coffee maker itself probably contains parts made from fossil fuels.

So when Cano and Gordon fill up their coffee cups in the morning before heading to the chambers to pass anti-fossil fuel policy which will result in driving out 11,000 jobs according to the Star Tribune, and a competitor in the financial industry, which is the highest paying industry in Minneapolis (more on this in my next blog), well…? I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.

In fairness to Cano and Gordon, they aren’t alone. It is probably the case that a large proportion of Americans don’t realize how significant fossil fuels are in our society. From using a toothbrush in the morning to daily attire to getting to work and so on and so forth; fossil fuels are there and they’re not going away anytime soon.

Is it unreasonable for us to expect council members from any city to have some knowledge of something they would want to divest? Is it unreasonable for us to expect council members to have some knowledge about the impact divestment would have on the local economy and thus its citizenry?  Is it unreasonable for us to expect council members to have some knowledge of economic policy, public policy, or science policy?


Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

You can also follow The Systems Scientist on Twitter or Facebook as well. 




Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist

2 replies »

  1. The fact that we live in a world that is so dominated by fossil fuel products is because governments have been outlawing and giving less advantages to alternative sources of energy. The reason why we now now want to divest from fossil fuels, is to tell the industry that we actually want a choice for alternatives that are not so destructive for the environment and communities. Yes, it is possible, but the grip of some very greedy companies are putting profit over the health and well-being of people and the environment.


    • Good evening, Peter!

      First, thanks for taking the time to read my article and comment. I appreciate it. Second, I noticed you didn’t answer the questions I posed at the end of the article. Why is that? Do you not agree that it is reasonable for us to expect policy makers, in this case council members, to know or have some idea of what they are divesting from?

      Do you not agree that policy makers ought to know or have an idea of the economic and social impact of their decisions? Do you not agree that policy makers ought have some idea of how economic policy, science policy, and public policy work? Are these not reasonable questions citizens ought to be challenging their representatives with?

      I could be wrong, and please correct me if I am, but it appears as though you reside on the left-side of the political spectrum, yes? If so, then you understand that the democractic party is “the party of science.” But how can this be so if these council members don’t even realize the significant role fossil fuels play in our society? Fossil fuels are possible because of science and engineering, i.e., chemistry and chemical engineering.

      I hope you take the time to reply to these questions. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and what you think we ought to expect from our policy makers. And I’d like to hear what you have to say about the article.

      Have a great evening!


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