Billionaire Democrat activist Tom Steyer is using his fortune to combat what he thinks is the greatest threat to America. No, he isn’t financing operations against ISIS or injecting medical aid into Africa to stop Ebola. In an effort to help congressional candidates, he’s running a commercial that highlights pollution from an oil refinery owned by Charles and David Koch. Never mind the fact that Steyer had no qualms about fossil fuel back when his hedge fund was making millions in the industry.
With this effort, Steyer joins a long list of environmental activists who use profits from the fossil fuel industry to bash it. The hypocrisy matters because these activists are promoting policies that will prevent average Americans from sharing in the benefits of the energy boom.
Consider George Soros, the world’s richest hedge fund manager. Soros supports environmentalist groups such as Alliance for Climate Change, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Union of Concerned Scientists -- all of which oppose the job creating scientific innovation known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
Logic demands Mr. Soros isn’t profiting from fracking, but he recently purchased a giant stake in CONSOL Energy, a company actively involved in fracking.
Even Al Gore took a fossil-fuel payday. He recently sold his television channel to Al Jazeera Media Network, a foreign news organization heavily backed by oil money. Gore defended his decision saying that the channel was struggling and that Al-Jazeera would “give thorough coverage to the climate change issue.”
Weeks later, Gore released a book in which he blames the poor state of the climate-change debate on the fact that “virtually every news and political commentary program on television is sponsored in part by oil, coal, and gas companies.”
As for Steyer, he left his $20 billion hedge fund in 2012, promising to pull his personal holdings from “ecologically unsound” investments.
But Steyer waited until market conditions were optimal for reaping some final profits from the energy sector.
He has described his conversion to climate activism as a “personal version of a ‘Paul on the Road to Damascus’ moment.” A more apt analogy might be to Michael Corleone from the Godfather. Just when Steyer thought he was out, energy profits pulled him back in. He needed these profits so he could pump $100 million to Democratic politicians that prevent others from making profits and creating jobs in the energy sector.
More than a few environmental groups have inconspicuously dipped their hand into the fossil-fuel till.
And environmental groups are not above taking bribes. The Sierra Club accepted $25 million in secret payments between 2007 and 2010 from a natural gas company for their anti-coal campaign.
Perhaps what really bothers the green movement is that -- unlike themselves -- the energy sector gives American consumers something they actually want.
The oil and natural gas industry is responsible for 9.8 million American jobs. An additional 1.4 million could be added by 2030, if the federal government lifts its blockade on access to natural resources.
It’s difficult to take the green movement seriously. Over and over, the movement attacks a sector that’s a vital part of the American economy. So the next time a green activist demands America pay more for energy, opt out of air conditioning, or divest from fossil fuel stocks, the American voters should simply say “You first.”
Michael James Barton is the Director for Energy at ARTIS Research, and speaks around the country on energy and energy security matters. He previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon.
Published: Nov. 13, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 31