The epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer: NY Times edition

This past April, with the help of a knowledgeable reader, we took a deep dive into the fossil fuel investments of Democratic money man and environmental poseur Tom Steyer in “The epic hypocrisy of Tom Steyer.” Introducing our reader’s report, John wrote regarding Steyer: “Today, he is a bitter opponent of fossil fuels, especially coal. That fits with his current economic interests: banning coal-fired power plants will boost the value of his solar projects. But it was not always thus. In fact, Steyer owes his fortune in large part to the fact that he has been one of the world’s largest financers of coal projects. Tom Steyer was for coal before he was against it.”

You read it here first, and in something like a definitive form (taking account of Steyer’s current financial interests), but we now welcome Michael Barbaro and Coral Davenport reporting in the New York Times: “Aims of donor are shadowed by past in coal.” Barbaro and Davenport may induce serious cognitive dissonance among alert Times readers with this, at the top of page A1 today:

Mr. Steyer, a billionaire former hedge fund manager, emerged this election season as the green-minded answer to Charles G. and David H. Koch, the patrons of conservative Republican politics, after vowing that he would sell off his investments in companies that generate fossil fuels like coal.

But an examination of those investments shows that even after his highly public divestment, the coal-related projects his firm bankrolled will generate tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution for years, if not decades, to come.

Over the past 15 years, Mr. Steyer’s fund, Farallon Capital Management, has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into companies that operate coal mines and coal-fired power plants from Indonesia to China, records and interviews show.

The expected life span of those facilities, some of which may run through 2030, could cloud Mr. Steyer’s image as an environmental savior and the credibility of his clean-energy message, which has won him access to the highest levels of American government. A few weeks ago, Mr. Steyer, 56, joined President Obama for an intimate group dinner at the White House that ran into the early morning hours, according to people told of the event.

The New York Times examined the operations of coal-mining companies in which Farallon invested or to which it lent money during Mr. Steyer’s stewardship, which coincided with growing demand and prices for coal. Together, those mines have increased their annual production by about 70 million tons since they received money from the hedge fund, according to corporate records, government data and interviews with industry experts.

That is more than the amount of coal consumed annually by Britain.

“I am disappointed, I have to say,” said Dale Jamieson, a professor of environmental studies at New York University, who said he admired Mr. Steyer’s campaign to curb climate change. When it comes to large-scale investments in coal, Professor Jamieson said, “you can’t undo what you’ve done in the past.”

Barbaro and Davenport even give us a shout-out, linking to our long post on Steyer:

[C]onservative groups and blogs are scouring Mr. Steyer’s business record. One blog, Power Line, has written extensively about Farallon’s work in the coal industry.

The Times doesn’t mention that we found the news fit to print a couple of months before the Times did, but we appreciate the straightforward credit.

Now if only we could get the Times on the Steyer/Washington Post connection

Responses