A top environmentalist in the United States has been exposed as a hypocrite after it emerged that he has invested in fossil fuels. Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager who has pledged $100m to defeat Republican candidates who are sceptical of climate change policies, has invested heavily in coal mining, according to the New York Times.
The NYT has reported a string of investments that Steyer and his company have made in fossil fuel industries. One such project is a 4,000-acre mine in New South Wales that will produce coal for the next 30 years, much to the disbelief of Australian environmentalists.
Despite pledging to sell off his investments in companies that generate fossil fuels, the coal-related projects his firm, Farallon, bankrolled will still generate tens of millions of tons of carbon for years if not decades to come.
Records and interviews show that Farallon has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into companies that operate coal-fired power stations and coal mines from Indonesia to China over the past 15 years, and the expected life span of some of those facilities could run to 2030.
According to NYT calculations, the coal mines in which Farallon has invested have increased their annual production by around 70 million tons since they received money from the company. This is greater than the total amount of coal that Britain annually consumes.
Although Steyer sold his ownership stake in Fallaron in late 2012, he has not cut ties with it completely. He remains a “passive investor”, although his aides refused to confirm the size of his investment. They also added that the company screens out any fossil fuel-related holding from his account, and he no longer earns a share of the profits from the fund.
The NYT adds, though, that Farallon is still investing in carbon-generating industries, and it is not known whether Steyer had asked it to sell those holdings.
Farallon was also a major investor in the New South Wales mine, lending an Australian entrepreneur hundreds of millions of dollars to buy out the previous owner before taking the mine public and turning Fallaron’s investment into a large profit.
The company is still investing in the mine to this day, with active mining due to start next year. When it begins coal extraction, it could generate up to 13 million tons of carbon dioxide a year over the next 30 years.
Philip Stark, president of the Northern Inland Council for the Environment said: “It’s gobsmacking. It’s amazing that such a person could have been involved in this project.”
The Republican candidates being targeted by Mr Steyer have been quick to seize on the revelations.
Representative Cory Gardner, a Senate candidate in Colorado, said: “You can’t claim you are a great environmentalist and invest in the very same technologies you are railing against.”