The Billionaire Is Trying to Bolster the Efforts to Kill Coal and Strengthen Renewables
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups received a shot in the arm from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who donated $64.0 million towards their efforts to reduce coal and promote renewables, running directly against the mandate of President Donald Trump to bring back coal jobs.
The announcement came on the heels of the White House’s formal attempts to repeal the Obama administration’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Coal is one of the “dirtier” power sources, generating more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generated versus other sources like wind, solar, and natural gas.
Barack Obama had been a proponent of renewable sources of energy throughout his presidency, while Trump has gone on record saying that he believes climate change to be a hoax. On top of that, Trump campaigned on bringing back coal jobs and slashing government regulation that sought to protect the environment.
Trump is also responsible for initially pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, although there are rumors swirling that the White House may choose to remain within the pact after all.
Both sides claim to be fighting for a better economy and job situation. The environmentalists contend that jobs will be created by investing in renewables, not to mention saved by a less severe impact from climate change.
On the other hand, the coal industry not only connects deeply to Trump’s base, but also represents the type of jobs that the president wants to see returned to the U.S.—middle-class, low-skill jobs with relatively high wages.
“The war on coal has never been led by Washington. It has been led by market forces that are providing cleaner and cheaper sources of energy,” Bloomberg told reporters at the Sierra Club’s Washington office. “The war on coal is saving tens of thousands of lives, and we won’t stop fighting until we save every last one.”
Alongside this most recent $64.0-million injection, Bloomberg has donated over $100.0 million in an effort to shift the U.S. away from coal power.
“If coal is a ‘dead end’ fuel source, why does billionaire Bloomberg need to give another $64 million to environmental activists to kill it?” National Mining Association spokesman Luke Popovich told Bloomberg News. “Coal production is up more than 15 percent in this past year while our exports over the same period are up by over 50 percent. The Sierra Club can’t defeat coal even with the help of eight years of the Obama administration.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has changed dramatically in its mission since Trump took office, with a focus on cutting costs, regulations, and otherwise downshifting the presence of the EPA. The agency announced on Tuesday a formal proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, with the potential to put more mild regulation in its place. At the same time, the Energy Secretary Rick Perry has lobbied for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to institute a rule that would help nuclear- and coal-power plants by valuing the fuel they have stored on site.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg called Perry’s move one of the “worst ideas” that has ever come out of Washington—”and that’s saying a lot.”
“Coal jobs aren’t coming back,” Bloomberg said. “Trying to force taxpayers to subsidize them back into existence will only lead to more death and disease.” Instead, the federal government should be doing more to help people in coal country “gain new skills” and “find new jobs in growing industry.”
The Sierra Club, with Bloomberg’s help, claims to have helped close 259 U.S. coal plants since 2010.
The fight is largely being conducted with both sides claiming that economic turmoil will follow should either one be successful in its mission. In any case, either those working in the coal industry or those in the renewable industry are likely to suffer should one side emerge victorious over the other.
“Anti-Coal Effort Aided by $64 Million From Michael Bloomberg,” Bloomberg, October 11, 2017.