Some climate activists have called for fossil fuel divestment. But anything that is sold is also bought. Is divestment then even possible?

For example, suppose that all businesses, pension funds, governments, private individuals, and others, would all decide to get rid of their investments in the oil industry (ignoring, for the moment, the practical difficulties that some oil companies also invest in renewable energy). With a tangible asset such as a Hummer, I can decide to have it destroyed rather than sold. Is it possible to get rid of an investment if nobody wants to buy it — or even get it for free?


If enough shareholders of a fossil fuel company got together they could probably vote to shut the company down entirely thus making their stock worthless.

I'm not convinced that is a practical solution though.

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  • "Probably"??? If your voting block controls 51% of the company, then you can vote to liquidate the company. – RonJohn Jan 23 at 14:47
  • Sure. I'm willing to bet that the remaining 49% wouldn't take it lying down though. – Mark Perryman Jan 23 at 14:51
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    Note tat liquidating literally means selling its assets, so all that happens is that someone else buys them and starts up the business agian, if it is still lucrative. – Aganju Jan 24 at 0:12
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    Shutting down all activity while retaining the assets in a shell company would meet the question's requirements better than liquidation. – Mark Perryman Jan 24 at 7:44

Once you get a 51% (or maybe 61% or 67%, depending on the corporation's bylaws) voting block, you can -- at the next shareholder meeting -- vote to liquidate it.

In the process of liquidation, you'd require all the equipment including refineries be dismantled, not sold. Can you imagine how expensive it would be to dismantle an oil refinery, and then clean up all the spilled petrochemicals???

Next is the problem of all the mineral rights (on land and at sea) that the company owns. For example, say that the company owns 1,000 acres of Texas and Oklahoma with thousands of producing wells on it. That's very valuable land. Who's going to buy it??? Greenpeace? The Government? No. Other oil companies will buy them. Ditto undersea leases. They're valuable, and the government will sell them to other oil companies.

Not to mention all the land in other countries...

Why won't the Government buy the land and not let it be used for more oil production? Because we need the energy.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JohnFx Jan 25 at 5:13

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