Letter: Permanent Fund needs to stop investing in fossil fuel stocks

Three weeks ago the Empire published an article that raised the specter of the Permanent Fund’s Earning Reserve Account running out of money in the next few years and not having enough funds to pay for our annual PFDs. This was from an original piece in the Alaska Beacon in which this concern was raised by Trustees of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation at their July 12 meeting. This year’s check is currently slated to be about $1,300, which will cost the Earnings Reserve somewhere around $815 million.

Coincidentally, a report came out two weeks earlier from the University of Waterloo, Canada, that pointed out that the fund would be about $1.2 billion richer if not for its investments in fossil fuel stocks over the past 10 years. That’s despite the recent surge in the value of those stocks due to the war in Ukraine. Those dollars would more than pay for this year’s dividend.

It’s been clear for decades that the market share of fossil fuel stocks has been declining. Given the increasing risk that climate change poses to fossil fuel companies, it would be wise to recognize the trend and get out before those assets lose more value.

But this is about more than just dollars of revenue.

State statute directs the fund managers to follow the prudent investor rule and to manage the fund to benefit all generations of Alaskans. How is it possible to benefit the youth and future generations of Alaskans, while at the same time being invested in an industry that is driving climate change, with heat waves, melting permafrost, eroding coastlines, hurricanes, wildfires and flooding all getting worse, faster than scientists have predicted?

The industry is intent on expanding, which will deepen the climate crisis. But science tells us we need to rapidly get off of fossil fuels or face a seriously degraded future. Given that, how can supporting the industry by investing in fossil fuels be a benefit for all generations, including your kids and grandkids?

Doug Woodby

Co-chair of 350Juneau