We hope that by posting on this seminal story, first encountered on the Cincinnati Enquirer, more teachers will investigate whether they, prospectively like members of the Texas Teacher's Union, may be dependent in their old age on the perversity of pension funds invested in Chinese coal: mining, shipping, and utilities.
The thought of teacher pension funds going into Chinese coal plants is as bad, if not worse, than investing them in toys made with lead paint.
One can not possibly argue that the US should take a global lead in mitigating against climate change, regardless of what China does, and allow this situation to go without remedy.
We suppose that plenty of other climate-related Gordian investment knots will surface for pension managers in coming months. Thankfully, teachers don't have to involve taxpayers, the kids, or the PTA in the discourse. This one is on investment advisers and teacher liaisons who have either looked the other way, acted in ignorance, or were just disengaged...until now.
American pension and mutual fund money is being invested in the Chinese coal industry, which is lucrative but has a poor record for pollution and worker safety.Look no further than China Shenhua Energy Co., the Beijing giant that produces about 170 million tons of coal a year from 21 mines and builds power plants. While about 80 percent of the company's stock is owned by Shenhua Group in Beijing, the rest of its shareholders reads like a who's who of U.S. investors: Fidelity Investments, OppenheimerFunds, Merrill Lynch, even the Teachers Retirement System of Texas.
U.S. investment in the likes of Shenhua has gone largely unnoticed. Individual investors such as the retired Texas teachers probably don't know their money is going into Chinese coal stocks, says corporate government expert Nell Minow.
"You're really on the horns of a dilemma," she says. "You can't afford not to be in China."
A spokesman for the Texas pension fund declined to comment.
Even environmental groups that have criticized the U.S. coal industry for practices such as mountaintop-removal mining have been largely silent on investing in Chinese coal. The Rainforest Action Network, for instance, focused on the U.S. in its criticism of Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.'s involvement with the coal industry.
Alexander cuts the Gordian Knot. Image credit::Wikipedia.