Green Billionaire Tom Steyer Claims 'Road to Damascus' Conversion from Coal
California billionaire Tom Steyer has spent the better part of the last two years crusading against climate change, but during that time he has been ridiculed as a hypocrite for making himself fabulously wealthy in part from dealing with companies that sell fossil fuels. At last he has spoken out about this essential disconnect in a message posted on his climate change website.
In a June 25 message to his NextGen Climate website, Steyer claimed that he has decided to "chart a different course" from his days as chief of Farallon Capital Management, a global fund that invested heavily in coal companies in Australia and Indonesia.
Despite that he made his fortune from so-called "dirty coal" companies in foreign lands, the billionaire now says that his "priorities" have changed because he has had a "Paul on the Road to Damascus conversion" bringing him to the revelation that climate change is a threat to the world.
Steyer insisted that "truly reconciling" his new-found "values" meant selling off his ownership stake in fossil fuels companies, and now he is announcing the result of that effort.
"In fact," he said, "I’m now in a position to formally announce that – as of June 30th – my personal investments will be 100% divested from fossil fuels."
Now that he is finally divested from the very fossil fuel companies that helped make him a billionaire but which he claims have caused global warming, Steyer says he is ready to launch wholeheartedly and with a clear conscience into what he says is a "profound opportunity to tackle climate change in the public arena."
Noting that he has already carried on several climate change campaigns that have "resulted in real-world impacts" for California, Steyer plans to continue on with campaigns that will affect the whole country and even the world.
He said he founded NextGen Climate because, "when it comes to climate change, the price of inaction is too high, and Americans across the country are already paying the cost."
"Climate change impacts us all," Steyer wrote, "and we must each make personal decisions about how we live, spend and work to preserve our planet. But beyond these private decisions, one thing has become abundantly clear: the time to act politically to avert climate disaster has arrived. As a nation, we must chart a different course, one that preserves our prosperity and empowers American businesses to create jobs while building the clean energy future our kids deserve."
Steyer's vaunted "Road to Damascus conversion" has certainly led to accusations of hypocrisy. It isn't just his sudden "conversion" to become a guru for greenism but the fact that now he is making millions off holdings in so-called green energy cronyism even as he was still invested in "dirty" coal.
"Hypocrisy is not in short supply in the political world, but Tom Steyer is in a class by himself," Powerline's John Hinderaker wrote in April. "Now that he is enriching himself through 'green' cronyism, coal is evil. Sure: like all hydrocarbons, it competes with the solar energy boondoggles on which he is making millions, with the aid of the Obama administration. But where was Steyer’s alleged social conscience when he was one of the world’s biggest investors in coal? And how substantial are his current holdings in coal projects? Is Steyer financing his anti-fossil fuel campaign on profits from past or, perhaps, ongoing investments in Asian and Australian coal? Inquiring minds want to know! Tom Steyer appears to have elevated political hypocrisy to an entirely new level."
Steyer has also started running into trouble with his political activities.
In January The Washington Post slammed Steyer's ad attacking the Keystone XL Pipeline saying that the ad fails on every level. "It relies on speculation, not facts, to make insinuations and assertions not justified by the reality," the Post concluded.
Last October, Steyer was also accused of running afoul of disclosure laws in Washington State with his NextGen Climate PAC. "Tom Steyer came into Washington State to use his millions to impose his extreme environmental views, but he doesn’t want to follow our rules," said Chair of the Washington State Republican Party Susan Hutchison. "Since Tom Steyer has already misled the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) once about what he was doing in Washington State, it's now up to PDC staff to stop giving Tom Steyer advice on how to avoid public disclosure, and actually investigate whether he broke public disclosure law to hide his activities."
He has also been quoted as saying that those who disagree with him are not merely wrong but are "evil" people.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.