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Reply to Amherst Faculty Members

November 10, 2014

On October 29, a group of Amherst College faculty members sent an open letter to the president of the college and the chairman of the board of trustees urging them to “move toward divesting the college of holdings in those corporations that are committed

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On October 29, a group of Amherst College faculty members sent an open letter to the president of the college and the chairman of the board of trustees urging them to “move toward divesting the college of holdings in those corporations that are committed to fossil fuel extraction to the exclusion of making serious investments in renewable energy.”

Regrettably, the faculty members’ letter made several false and malicious claims about The Heartland Institute, which we reply to in the letter below. We shared our concern with Joseph Wilson, an Amherst alumnus who forwarded the faculty members’ letter to other alumni, and asked him to send our reply to the same list of alumni or at least direct them to “Reply to Our Critics,” a feature on Heartland’s Web site that corrects similar errors, but he has refused to do so. (Please ask him why: wilson.amherst@gmail.com.) We also asked the editor of The Amherst Student, which printed the letter, to allow us to post a comment below the article on the newspaper’s Web site. So far, the paper has refused to print our reply. (Please ask the editor why at this online form.)

November 10, 2014

Dr. Carolyn Martin
President, Amherst College
Mr. Cullen Murphy
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Amherst College
Converse Hall
Amherst, MA 01002-5000


Dear Dr. Martin and Mr. Murphy:

A member of the Amherst College class of 1964 sent me a copy of an open letter you recently were sent by some Amherst faculty members calling on the college to divest its investments in fossil fuels. I am writing to call your attention to serious factual errors in that letter. A copy of the letter is enclosed.

The references to The Heartland Institute contained in letter are entirely false. The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old nonprofit institution that was started without funding or advice from “Koch Industries” or any individuals or other organizations affiliated with that company. There is nothing “ersatz” about us: We have more than 5,000 donors, 30 full-time staff, more than 260 academics participate in our peer-review, and nearly 8 out of 10 state legislators say they read and value our publications.

We have received a mere $25,000 in the last 15 years from individuals or organizations affiliated with the Koch family, and that gift was for our work on health care reform. We’ve received no funding at all from ExxonMobil or BP since 2007, before we became prominent in the climate change debate, and before that their funding amounted to less than 5% of our annual budgets.

Our positions on climate change and alternative energy obviously diverge from those of the letter’s authors, but are well within the bounds of respected scientific opinion. For example, our series of scientific reports on climate science, titled Climate Change Reconsidered, has been cited more than 100 times in peer-reviewed science journals. Copies of the Summaries for Policymakers of two most recent reports in the series are enclosed.

I’m sorry proponents of disinvestment felt they couldn’t make their case without defaming an organization that presents an opposing view. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or others here at The Heartland Institute if you have any questions or further concerns.

Sincerely, 

Joseph Bast
President
The Heartland Institute

Author
Joseph Bast is president and CEO of The Heartland Institute, a 33-year-old national nonprofit research center located in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
jbast@heartland.org @JosephLBast