An Oxford-Style Debate on University Fossil Fuel Divestment

Event Status

"Given the educational and research missions of universities, should university endowments divest investments from companies that extract, transport, refine, or sell fossil fuels?"


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Debate participants "for" divestment:

Cutler Cleveland,  Professor of Earth and Environment & Associate Director, Institute for Global Sustainability., Boston University

Dan Cohn, Global Energy Transition Researcher, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis


Debate participants "against" divestment:

Bradford Cornell, Professor of Finance, UCLA

Brent Bennett, Policy Director for Life:Powered, Texas Public Policy Foundation


Speaker Biographies:

Cutler Cleveland:

Cutler J. Cleveland is Professor of Earth and Environment, Associate Director of the Institute for Global Sustainability, and a Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. Dr. Cleveland’s studies the connections among energy, climate change, and human well-being. He was principal investigator for Carbon Free Boston, a technical assessment of strategies to help the City of Boston reach carbon neutrality by 2050, and Climate of Crisis, an assessment of how cities can sustain climate action during the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that advance social equity and economic recovery. Dr. Cleveland is author and editor of reference works on energy that include the Encyclopedia of Energy, winner of an American Library Association award, the Dictionary of Energy and the Handbook of Energy. Dr. Cleveland is the recipient of the Adelman-Frankel Award from the United States Association of Energy Economics for “unique and innovative contributions to the field of energy economics.” He currently serves on the Advisory Board for Project Drawdown. He is co-author of Environmental Science, the Web’s first electronic textbook on the subject. Dr. Cleveland's research on the valuation of ecosystem services, funded by the National Science Foundation, is highlighted in NSF's Top Discoveries series. He has been a consultant to numerous private and public organizations, including the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, the Energy Information Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Cleveland holds a BS in Biology from Cornell University, a MS in Marine Science from Louisiana State University, and a PhD in Geography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 


Dan Cohn: 

Dan Cohn is Global Energy Transition Researcher at IEEFA. His research focuses on protecting institutional investment funds from the volatility associated with global commodity prices and the fossil fuel industry. During the past decade, Dan has become an expert in the U.S. coal-mining industry and regulatory framework, with a specialization in coal mine cleanup, financial assurance instruments as well as energy transition issues in Wyoming and Montana's Powder River Basin. Dan has published numerous reports and been quoted in print and broadcast media. He is skilled at communicating complex technical subjects to non-expert audiences and has given presentations to many different stakeholder groups.


Bradford Cornell: 

Bradford Cornell is an emeritus Professor of Financial Economics at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. Prof. Cornell has taught courses on Applied Corporate Finance, Investment Banking, and Corporate Valuation. He has recently developed a new course on Energy, Climate Change and Finance. Professor Cornell received his Masters degree in Statistics and his PhD in Financial Economics from Stanford University. In his academic capacity, Professor Cornell has published more than 125 articles on a wide variety of topics in applied finance, particularly empirical analysis of asset pricing models. He is also the author of Corporate Valuation: Tools for Effective Appraisal and Decision Making, published by Business One Irwin, The Equity Risk Premium and the Long-Run Future of the Stock Market, published by John Wiley and Conceptual Foundations of Investing published by John Wiley. He also has a forthcoming book with Ivo Welch, Moving the Needle: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Fighting Climate Change. He is a past Director and Vice-President of the Western Finance Association and a past Director of the American Finance Association. As a consultant, Professor Cornell has provided testimony and expert analysis in some of the largest and most widely publicized finance related cases in the United States. Among his clients are AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway, Bristol-Myers, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Merck, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, PG&E, Price Waterhouse, Verizon, Walt Disney and various agencies of the United States Government. Professor Cornell is also a senior advisor to Rayliant Global Advisors and to Cornell Capital Group. In both capacities, he provides advice on fundamental investment valuation. In his free time Prof. Cornell enjoys cycling and golf.


Brent Bennett: 

Brent Bennett, Ph.D., is the policy director for Life:Powered, an initiative of the Texas Public Policy Foundation to raise America’s energy IQ and the premier voice in Texas and across the country for energy freedom and human flourishing. Dr. Bennett has an M.S.E. and Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in physics from the University of Tulsa. His graduate research focused on advanced chemistries for utility-scale energy storage systems. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Bennett worked for a startup company selling carbon nanotubes to battery manufacturers, and he continues to provide technology consulting to energy storage companies.

Date and Time
Oct. 11, 2022, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Location: Live Stream Online (Zoom and YouTube)
Event tags
UT Energy Symposium