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Clinton to McKibben to Steyer to Podesta: Comments on Planet of the Humans by Michael Swifte

May 20, 2020

by Michael Swifte, Wrong Kind of Green Collective

 

 

“I think that the mainstream climate movement needs to collapse. It needs to end. And that the very comfortable organizers within that mainstream climate movement working in those NGO jobs – they need to fail. I think they need to be brought down. I think they need to have a little bit of hardship and a bit of suffering, and they need to create space for those historically oppressed groups.” [1]

 

— Tim DeChristopher, Transformation without Apocalypse – Episode #6 [SOURCE]

 

To understand the “damage” Bill McKibben claims the Planet of the Humans documentary has done to the climate justice movement you have to look at where 350 dot org began.

A fifty million dollar beginning

Bill McKibben has been in a dance with philanthropo-capitalists for more than a decade. He may not have been paid to be the face of 350 dot org but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t ‘corporate’ money around.

There was corporate and philanthropic money from the start. Bill Clinton announced 50 million from a “range of corporate and non-profit partners” for 1Sky at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative. Bill McKibben was on the board of 1Sky in 2009 before it was merged with 350 dot org.

Watch this video and ask yourself how anyone could claim to be a leader of a ‘grassroots’ organisation or say that 350 dot org was ever a “rag-tag bunch of kids”. Watch the video.

 

Cory Morningstar has been tracking, analysing and cataloguing this stuff for 10 years, and by “this stuff” I mean the global capture of climate justice activism through #networkedhegemony at the behest of the non profit industrial complex #NPIC. Cory follows the money, analyses the networks, and interrogates the messaging.

#NewPower networks connect 350 dot org to a vast web of similarly funded campaigns and critically deliver opportunities to shape the Democratic party agenda. 350’s global expansion was built on replicating the organisations, institutions and campaigns that positioned it in the US and Canada.

Here are some links providing deep background on the #NewPower constructs and networks that empower the ‘climate cartel’.

‘Rockefellers’ 1Sky Unveils the New 350.org | More $ – More Delusion’

http://www.theartofannihilation.com/rockefellers-1sky-unveils-the-new-350-org-more-more-delusion/

‘SumOfUs are Corporate Whores | Some Of Us Are Not’

http://www.theartofannihilation.com/sumofus-are-corporate-whores-some-of-us-are-not/

Jessica Bailey at Rockefeller Brothers Fund actually used the word ‘merger’ to describe the union of the 2 campaign organizations incubated by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

“Bill McKibben, who has been a 1Sky board member and will chair the new 350.org board, once referred to 1Sky as the U.S. Embassy for 350.org and 350.org as 1Sky’s foreign legion.[] Matching 350.org’s talent for mass mobilization and online action with 1Sky’s advocacy and field campaign experience is tremendously exciting. Mergers are tough, and I applaud the leaders in both organizations for recognizing they’d be stronger together.“ [SOURCE]

Comments on Planet of the Humans

Planet of the Humans is a worthy documentary for it’s revelations about “green energy” and the failures of the climate justice movement. It is a testament to Jeff Gibbs’ extensive documentation and long commitment to environmental issues. I was pleased that it included the Climate Challenge segment with Karyn Strickler pitching a question from Cory Morningstar to Bill McKibben, and I was glad the film makers told the truth about Ivanpah and Robert F Kennedy Jr’s ties to fossil fuel giants.

Planet of the Humans is mostly about North America, and while it opens up a range of departure points for discussion of planetary issues, it’s a documentary about North American humans and westerners more generally, not the 100s of millions of blameless people who struggle to put food on the table. I found the discussion of the ‘population issue’ concerning given how little time had been given to putting global consumer markets into perspective, but documentary making is about access, and Jeff Gibbs has gained access to the world of “green energy” in North America. Michael Moore brings access of a different but equally vital kind, if you want to make a splash with a documentary.

Departure points are vital if we’re to make the most of what Planet of the Humans has highlighted as key issues. If the climate justice movement has failed and the environmental movement has been captured by billionaires, what else have they messed up? What are the other billionaire philanthropists doing to capture the efforts of environmental campaigners? What new diabolical schemes are planned to keep business as usual going?

People who feel inspired or moved by Planet of the Humans should look into biomass burning in Europe and the future plans for burying CO2 produced from burning biomass under the North Sea. American and European philanthropies have invested staggering amounts of money into organisations like the European Climate Foundation which is part of a global empire of similar organisations. The IPCC mitigation pathways are replete with the term BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage).

I watched Planet of the Humans after watching the Earth Day livestream discussion with Michael Moore, Jeff Gibbs and Ozzie Zehner. I hope that Michael Moore’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders and his plea that we put environmentalism into the hands of young people like the Sunrise Movement which was incubated by the Sierra Club is not the position of all three film makers. We can’t take Michael Moore’s words as a call to action so we are going to have to make our own calls to action.

Watch the full video of Karyn Strickler interviewing Bill McKibben on Climate Challenge here:

 

Departure point: John Podesta and a parallel climate campaign

In 2007 a plan was launched by 6 foundations. This plan #DesigntoWin produced the ClimateWorks Foundation, headed by John Podesta, which has spearheaded the incubation and funding of re-granting NGOs globally. ClimateWorks is perhaps the world’s largest recipient of  climate philanthropy having received more than 1.3 billion USD since it’s inception in 2008.

John Podesta has a long relationship with the Clintons, both as politicians and philanthropists. In the various roles he has played – always as a Democrat – his focus has been on the future of energy and how to message a position on climate change for the party and for the global philanthropo-capitalist agendas.

Have a read of the Wikileaks ‘Podesta Emails’ that refer to Bill McKibben and/or Tom Steyer. Check out the ‘climate tick tocks’ for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the updates from philanthropist-billionaires like Tom Steyer and Henry Sandler, or Chris Lehane’s ‘big idea’ briefing that became the ‘Clean Power Plan’ (more business as usual). [SOURCE]

Podesta is always engaged with philanthropists. The Sandler Foundation helped establish the Center for American Progress which Podesta heads up. It helped fund the Australian climate justice regranting NGO the Sunrise Project and the US Beyond Coal campaign. Tom Steyer, a former Wall St banker, hedge fund manager and friend of Nancy Pelosi befriended Podesta who welcomed him into his Center for American Progress. Podesta encouraged Steyer to start his NextGen Climate Action Committee. It is likely that Steyer’s dubious defection from the ranks of billionaire fossil fuel investors and hedge fund managers was orchestrated under the advice of Chris Lehane. Steyer’s defection would see him join with McKibben and 350 at high profile events, and according to the Podesta emails they were in regular contact.

350/McKibben have been a foil for Democrat positioning on climate. The non profit industrial complex needed a global climate justice brand, and it needed to nestle it in a web of networks all connected by funded talking points and touchstone pieces in Rolling Stone and Grist. Granting and regranting NGOs pass over talking points in their transactions with grant recipients. Billionaires on every continent get to play the game.

Important background on the Design to Win plan here:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/09/11/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-for-consent-volume-ii-act-i-a-design-to-win-a-multi-billion-dollar-investment/

Background on the largely ignored mitigation plans of big oil & gas here:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/10/19/perfect-distractions-and-fantastical-mitigation-plans/

Departure point: The Steyer-Taylor Center and financing for CCS

Tom Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor fund the Steyer Taylor Center at Stanford. The center was headed from it’s founding in 2011 until September 2018 by Dan Reicher who has spoken in favour of financing to support carbon capture and storage on numerous occasions.

Dan Reicher is a Clinton administration energy wonk who spent some of the Obama years at Google. He’s the Founding Executive Director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy & Finance, but is now at the Stanford Woods Institute. Reicher explains how the future is all laid out for enhanced oil recovery with CO2 in this 2016 video. His slides include the prexisting CO2 pipeline maps for enhanced oil recovery.

 

A quote from the video:

“Carbon capture and sequestration is a key climate change strategy. You ask the IPCC, you ask the International Energy Agency.”

Reicher argues that with the CO2 pipeline infrastructure that is already in place and the right financial instruments “Full scale cost effective CCS” is deliverable.

Here is Reicher discussing private activity bonds and CCS. In the past he has spoken about the usefulness of master limited partnerships. Both of these financial instruments have been included in bipartisan bills currently before congress.

“It’s less about how to make it work technically these days but more about how to make it work financially,” [SOURCE]

Here is a quote from Reicher speaking at the Exxon funded Global Climate and Energy Project – Research Symposium in 2015.

“We really need to be using CCS for coal, natural gas, and a whole host of industrial carbon sources. But the costs are too high,” [SOURCE]

The Steyer-Taylor Center has partnered with the Exxon incubated and funded Global Climate and Energy Project which was ended in August 2019.  Exxon are a founding member of the Strategic Energy Alliance along with Bank of America who support the – Sustainable Finance Initiative along with the Steyer-Taylor Center. [SOURCE]

Departure point: The Green New Deal and the failing phase out

Dan Lashof is the director of the World Resources Institute and the current COO of Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate America and Nextgen Policy Center. In January Lashof co-wrote an opinion piece for the Houston Chronicle with Occidental Petroleum – Low Carbon Ventures president Richard Jackson. Oxy’s air capture plans support their enhanced oil recovery efforts and net zero targets through negative emissions from their planned air capture for CO2 enhanced oil recovery project. [SOURCE]

There’s a lot of interest in Oxy’s direct air capture plans which are supported by Carbon Engineering who have a long list of investors including Bill Gates, Murray Edwards, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, LLC, Chevron Technology Ventures and BHP. [SOURCE]

The World Resources Institute provided 2 of the 3 Data for Progress researchers that developed the #netzero language that made it into the Green New Deal resolution. After the resolution came and went it has become clear that any sort of commitment to a fossil fuel phase out had been abandoned.

Important background on the ties between the World Resources Institute and Data for Progress here:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/02/13/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-for-consent-the-new-green-deal-is-the-trojan-horse-for-the-financialization-of-nature/

The Green New Deal has taken some of the pressure from McKibben/350. The Clean Power Plan was business as usual, but a little bit cleaner. The GND allows Democrats to appear to be taking a harder line on climate,  but it’s a vehicle that has little legislative substance.

The Green New Deal must be failing to deliver a fossil fuel phase out if the director of the WRI, a so called ‘environmental advocate’, can share a by-line with a big oil executive to spruik a project that is the opposite of phasing out fossil fuels and seemingly nobody cares.

Here’s a quote from Dan Lashof regarding Oxy’s air capture for CO2 enhanced oil recovery project that clearly shows he’s not working for a fossil fuel phase out.

“On the other hand, to the extent that you’re expanding the total energy resources base and extending the fossil-fuel era, obviously that doesn’t solve the climate problem.” [SOURCE]

Data for Progress, New Green Deal Research Director and World Resources Institute US, Manager for Climate Action and Data, Greg Carlock referred to a WRI working paper on direct air capture in a recent blog post for WRI. The paper refers to Oxy’s DAC for CO2 EOR project as an example of where investments are increasing.

“Some companies interested in combining enhanced oil recovery with direct air capture are increasing investments. For example, Occidental Petroleum is partnering with Carbon Engineering to build potentially several direct air capture plants.” [SOURCE]

Departure point: Drax, BECCS and the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative

  1. On April 21, 2020, while the global oil market was in free fall, it was reported that a formal agreement had been signed confirming that Drax would be part of a consortium that included Equinor and Phillips 66 to develop “the world’s first net zero carbon industrial cluster” in Humber, UK. [SOURCE]

 

  1. Equinor are a member of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative who are funding the Teesside CCS cluster. [SOURCE]

 

  1. Drax have been trialling BECCS (bio-energy with CCS) in the UK. [SOURCE]

 

  1. The lions share of the biomass burned by the Drax Group is from North America. [SOURCE]

 

  1. BECCS is in 3 of the 4 pathways offered by the IPCC working group on mitigation. [SOURCE]

Departure point: European Climate Foundation and industrial CCS clusters

Laurence Tubiana is a former French ambassador to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and CEO of the European Climate Foundation.

 

“The phase when abatement of emissions from industry was considered impossible is over. Industry leaders are looking at totally disruptive technologies and visions.” [SOURCE]

I could try and explain how the ECF is positioned to shape the ‘climate solutions’ on offer, but Cory Morningstar has already done it perfectly:

“As “the core of the ClimateWorks system in Europe“, the ECF constitutes an integral part of the regional global network created by the San Francisco-based ClimateWorks. ClimateWorks works to oversee and shape climate-related policy work worldwide. Launched in 2008 – the same year as ClimateWorks) – the ECF is a regranting foundation like its US counterpart.” [Background on the European Climate Foundation]

3 key points about European Climate Foundation

  1. The European Climate Foundation commissioned Element Energy to prepare 2 reports. One report is on carbon capture utilisation and storage for gas, coal, oil and biomass, and the other is on liquid fuels (hydrogen) which will largely come from processing North Sea gas and sequestering the CO2 in geological storage or from electrolysis using electricity largely supplied from the grid that is ostensibly renewable.
  2. Element Energy prepared reports for the developers of Teesside CCS industrial cluster and for the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative which are funding the Teesside CCS cluster as part of their UN endorsed Kickstarter Initiative investments.
  3. It is clear that the European Climate Foundation which is part of the ClimateWorks empire under the Design to Win plan, are 100% in support of further entrenching fossil fuel extraction and use as part of their #NetZero

5 studies relating to BECCS and industrial clusters in Europe

2018: Study funded by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative

‘Policy Mechanisms to support the large-scale deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)’

“Element Energy and Vivid Economics have assessed policy mechanisms that could accelerate the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to the scale required to meet climate change targets. The report begins by considering why, despite the central role that CCS plays in many deep decarbonisation trajectories, CCS has failed to build momentum. Having identified the problems, the work lays out policy and market mechanisms that could stimulate investment across the stages of deployment, acknowledges regional circumstances, and suggests principles that could help governments and firms to collaborate. Note that in this report CCS includes CCUS (carbon capture, utilisation and storage) in those cases where storage is permanent.'” [SOURCE]

2018: Study funded by the European Climate Foundation

‘Low-carbon cars in Europe: A socio-economic assessment’

“Hydrogen production for the transport sector is expected to be dominated by water electrolysers, steam methane reforming (SMR) and by-product from industrial processes (for example chloralkali plants). These sources form the basis of the production mix in this study. Other potential sources include waste or biomass gasification, or SMR with carbon capture and storage. These additional routes could potentially provide low cost, low carbon hydrogen, but are not yet technically or economically proven and have not been included in the cost assumptions below.” [SOURCE]

2017: Study funded by the European Climate Foundation and Industrial Innovation for Competitiveness (i24c)

‘Deployment of an industrial Carbon Capture and Storage cluster in Europe: A funding pathway’

“The 2020s will be a make-or-break decade for so many aspects of the low carbon transition. CCS in industrial plants needs to be part of the picture. Getting the financing right is clearly an essential first step. But we also need to establish the right frameworks for shared liability between operators and tackle some of the concerns the public and some policymakers still harbour over industrial CCS. This report shows the way for at least one of the hurdles related to CCS. I hope you enjoy reading it.” [SOURCE]

2011: Study funded by the One North East Regional Development Agency and the North East Process Industries Cluster.

‘Tees Valley CCS Network’

“An Element Energy study has looked at the logistics of implementing a shared CCS pipeline network in the Tees Valley to connect major CO2 emitters in one of the UK’s largest industrial clusters. By Harsh Pershad, Element Energy”[SOURCE]

2019: Study prepared for European Climate Foundation in collaboration with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Climate-KIC, the Energy Transitions Commission, RE:Source,and SITRA.

‘Industrial Transformation 2050: Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions from EU Heavy Industry’

“BIOMASS WILL BE REQUIRED PRIMARILY FOR FEEDSTOCK Achieving net zero emissions for the economy as a whole will lead to multiple competing claims on scarce biomass re-sources. The use of biomass for fuel or feedstock can compete with alternative uses for land like food or feed production, conservation for maintained biodiversity, or as a ‘sink’ for CO2 emissions. Furthermore, once the biomass has been extracted, there are multiple competing uses, from simple combustion for heat or electricity generation (the largest use today) to the production of transportation fuels, or use with CCS for ‘negative emissions’ to offset remaining emissions in other sectors.” [SOURCE]

2017: Research paper prepared for Chatham House by independent policy analyst Duncan Brack

‘Woody Biomass for Power and Heat: Impacts on the Global Climate’

“Biomass is classified as a source of renewable energy in national policy frameworks, benefiting from financial and regulatory support on the grounds that, like other renewables, it is a carbon-neutral energy source. It is not carbon-neutral at the point of combustion, however; if biomass is burnt in the presence of oxygen, it produces carbon dioxide. The argument is increasingly made that its use can have negative impacts on the global climate. This classification as carbon-neutral derives from either or both of two assumptions. First, that biomass emissions are part of a natural cycle in which forest growth absorbs the carbon emitted by burning wood for energy. Second, that biomass emissions are accounted for in the land-use sector, and not in the energy sector, under international rules for greenhouse gas emissions.”

 

“Many of the models used to predict the impacts of biomass use assume that mill and forest residues are the main feedstock used for energy, and biomass pellet and energy companies tend to claim the same, though they often group ‘low-grade wood’ with ‘forest residues’, although their impact on the climate is not the same. Evidence suggests, however, that various types of roundwood are generally the main source of feedstock for large industrial pellet facilities. Forest residues are often unsuitable for use because of their high ash, dirt and alkali salt content.” [SOURCE]

 

End notes:

[1] Verbatim: “I think that the, the mainstream climate movement, needs to, needs to collapse. It needs to end. Um, and, and that the very comfortable organizers within that mainstream climate movement, ah, working in those NGO jobs, um, they, they need to fail. Um, I think they need to be brought down. I think they, they need to, ah, have a little bit of hardship and a bit of suffering, and they need to create space for, ah, for those historically oppressed groups.” Tim DeChristopher, Transformation without Apocalypse – Episode #6

 

[Michael Swifte is an Australian activist and a member of the Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective.]

COP21 Gets A Spark Of Nuclear Energy From Breakthrough Energy Coalition

Clean Technica

December 3, 2015

by Tina Casey

 

The Intertubes have been buzzing with news of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, the latest venture by US billionaire and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Introduced earlier this week at the COP21 Paris climate talks as a companion to the equally newsworthy Mission Innovation initiative, the new coalition harnesses the dollar power of the Earth’s billionaires to accelerate the clean energy revolution.

If your definition of clean energy includes nuclear energy, then you have a lot to cheer about because that seems to be a main focus of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s interest.

Bill Gates Breakthrough nuclear energyImage: via Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition

To be clear, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition* defines its mission quite broadly. It identifies the problem like this:

The existing system of basic research, clean energy investment, regulatory frameworks, and subsidies fails to sufficiently mobilize investment in truly transformative energy solutions for the future. We can’t wait for the system to change through normal cycles.

…and it describes one part of the solution:

The foundation of this program must be large funding commitments for basic and applied research, and here governments play the key role.

That’s where Mission Innovation comes in, by the way. As described yesterday by CleanTechnica, Mission Innovation launched at COP21 with the aim of ramping up government investment in clean energy.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition aims squarely at the missing piece, which would be the task of attracting private dollars to propel high-risk, high return research across the notorious “Valley of Death” that lies between the laboratory and the marketplace:

This [Valley of Death] collective failure can be addressed, in part, by a dramatically scaled-up public research pipeline, linked to a different kind of private investor with a long term commitment to new technologies who is willing to put truly patient flexible risk capital to work. These investors will certainly be motivated partly by the possibility of making big returns over the long-term, but also by the criticality of an energy transition.

The Bill Gates Nuclear Energy Angle

In contrast to the generalities in the Breakthrough mission statement, Gates dropped a hint about his expectations for the organization in a blog post of November 29, timed to COP21:

The renewable technologies we have today, like wind and solar, have made a lot of progress and could be one path to a zero-carbon energy future. But given the scale of the challenge, we need to be exploring many different paths—and that means we also need to invent new approaches.

You can find another hint in the membership list of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. So far the only university to join is the University of California, which runs our Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Among many other clean tech endeavors, Berkeley Lab is known for its nuclear energy research facilities:

The Nuclear Science Division conducts basic research aimed at understanding the structure and interactions of nuclei and the forces of nature as manifested in nuclear matter – topics that align the Division with the national program as elucidated in the 2007 U.S. Nuclear Science Long Range Plan.

 

The Division has major programs in low energy nuclear science, including nuclear structure physics, studies of the heaviest elements, exotic nuclei and light radioactive beams, weak interactions, and nuclear reactions; relativistic heavy ion physics; nuclear theory; nuclear astrophysics and neutrino properties; data evaluation; and advanced instrumentation. The Division also operates the 88-Inch Cyclotron. The 88-Inch Cyclotron is the home of the Berkeley Accelerator Space Effects Facility (BASEF) and supports a local research program in nuclear science.

Not for nothing, but did you know that Bill Gates is a co-founder and current Chairman of the innovative nuclear energy company TerraPower? The Washington State-based company launched in 2006 and although the US is unlikely to prove fertile ground for nuclear energy investment in the near future, TerraPower is already well on its way to putting down stakes in China.

Clean Tech, High Tech, And Nuclear Energy

Both Gates and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition are honest about their primary intention, which is to make a profit. In that regard it’s worth noting that members of the coalition stand to profit both directly through a return on their new clean energy investments, and indirectly by enabling them to continue growing the market for their primary products in a carbon-constrained world.

Industries represented by the Breakthrough membership include computer software and hardware (Microsoft, SAP, Hewlett-Packard), telecommunications (Tata Industries), and e-commerce including shipping and logistics (Amazon and Alibaba).

If you can spot more affiliations drop us a note in the comment thread.

The “Other” Nuclear Energy

Before we leave, let’s note that our Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a hotbed of research into nuclear fusion — basically, generating energy by squeezing particles together rather than blowing them apart — so we’re interested to see if Livermore will hop aboard the Breakthrough coalition, too.

Livermore is the home of the National Ignition Facility and if you want to see this crazy place in action, catch the “Energy on the Edge” episode of National Geographic’s ongoing Breakthrough (no relation to the Breakthrough coalition) series this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time on the National Geographic Channel. The episode includes a heartstopping sequence of an actual test firing.

 

[Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own.]

*Breakthrough Energy Coalition founding members: Mukesh Ambani, John Arnold, Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos, HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Tabal, Richard Branson, Ray Dalio, Aliko Dangote, John Doerr, Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman, Chris Hohn, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, Patrice Motsepe, Xavier Niel, Hasso Plattner, Julian Robertson, Neil Shen, Nat Simons, Laura Baxter-Simons, Masayoshi Son, George Soros, Tom Steyer, Ratan Tata, Meg Whitman, Ms. Zhang Xin, Mr. Pan Shiyi, Mark Zuckerberg, Dr. Priscilla Chan and the investment office of the University of California.

 

Fossil Fuel Divestment Farce

A Culture of Imbeciles

May 1, 2015

by Jay Taber

McKibben and Steyer March-7

Above: Tom Steyer (left) and Bill McKibben (center). Peoples Climate March, September 21, 2014

 

As investigative journalist Cory Morningstar reports, fossil fuel divestment is a farce. Fossil fuel divestment — promoted by 350 — targets only publicly traded stocks; but pension funds targeted by the 350 divestment campaign invest hundreds of billions in privately traded securities, such as hedge funds and private equity, that are heavily invested in fossil fuel production–including fracking.

Compromising the 350 divestment campaign is the fact it has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from hedge fund managers like Jeremy Grantham and billionaire Tom Steyer, who has major investments in fossil fuels. Steyer’s Farallon Capital was, in fact, a target of 350, until he bought their silence.

Grantham, meanwhile, donated millions to buy the support of Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund and Greenpeace. As usual, the 350 Climateers are clueless about how they are being used by fossil fuel investors to undermine democracy and the environmental movement.

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

 

Tom Steyer’s Deep Ties to Oregon Corruption Scandal

The Washington Free Beacon

By Lachlan Markay

Police outside outside the home of Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon. / AP

Police outside outside the home of Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon. / AP


Top advisers to the billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer helped run a green group, financed in part by Steyer himself, that is at the center of a corruption scandal that could force the Democratic governor of Oregon to resign.

An executive at one of Steyer’s nonprofit groups and a political vendor who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the hedge fund manager’s political operations helped run the group, which is accused of influencing state energy policy through undisclosed payments to Oregon’s first lady.

The controversy centers on Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. She was paid $118,000 by the Clean Economy Development Center (CEDC) to advocate for environmentalist policies in Oregon.

Hayes never disclosed those payments, despite acting as an informal adviser to the governor as he pushed a low-carbon fuel standard for the state.

Dan Carol, then a strategic adviser to CEDC, helped Hayes land the position. He was given a $165,000-per-year job in the Kitzhaber administration.

Kitzhaber is expected to resign today under intense scrutiny over the scandal. The scandal could extend beyond Oregon given Steyer’s involvement. Steyer has donated millions to a group that helped finance Hayes’ position, which could ensnare one of the Democratic Party’s most prominent fundraisers in the scandal.

Hayes was reportedly a fellow at the CEDC  in 2011 and 2012, but as of late as August of last year, she was still listed on a since-deleted page of its website.

Also listed on that page was Kate Gordon, a member of the CEDC’s board. Gordon leads the energy and climate division of Next Generation, an environmental nonprofit group founded by Steyer.

Another director of the group, according to the website, was Mike Casey. Casey runs a media and public relations firm called Tigercomm that does polling and advertising work for Steyer’s Super PAC, NextGen Climate Action.

Casey reportedly wrote NextGen’s communications strategy for its involvement in elections in Massachusetts and Virginia in 2013. NextGen and another Steyer group, the CE Action Committee, paid Tigercomm $387,000 that year.

CEDC executive director Jeff King said in an email that Casey and Gordon were never board members, “but were erroneously listed as such at one point.” He would not say who listed them, why, when, or what their roles with the organization were. The IRS revoked CEDC’s tax exempt status in August after it failed to file annual reports for three straight years.

Former CEDC board members, according to the website, include Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union. His former assistant, Josie Mooney, is a strategic adviser to NextGen.

David Chen, a former member of CEDC’s advisory board, has hosted Steyer at events held by his investment firm, Equilibrium Capital. Steyer also sits on the board of the Center for American Progress, whose senior fellow in energy and environmental policy, Bracken Hendricks, was listed as a CEDC adviser.

As his team and others to which he has ties helped run CEDC, Steyer steered funds to the group financing Hayes’ fellowship.

Internal Revenue Servicing filings show that the Energy Foundation provided $75,000 to CEDC in 2011 and 2012. The foundation said the funds would help “build support for dean energy policy in the Northwest.” It told the Oregonian that it was supporting the fellowship specifically.

Steyer’s TomKat Charitable Trust has donated more than $3 million to the Energy Foundation.

Steyer is arguably the nation’s most prominent environmentalist financier, but other high-dollar donors to similar groups also bankrolled CEDC generally and Hayes’ fellowship specifically.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a foundation that provides significant financial support for U.S. green groups, granted $25,000 to CEDC in 2012 specifically earmarked for its Clean Economy Acceleration Fellowship Program.

That came after a $100,000 grant to CEDC the year before, itemized as “general support.”

Jessica Bailey, until 2012 a program officer for sustainable development at RBF, also served as a strategic adviser to CEDC.

A former CEDC director, Aimee Christensen, also worked with RBF through her consulting firm, Christensen Global Strategies. According to its website, another of her clients was the Sea Change Foundation, which has quietly poured hundreds of millions of dollars into U.S. environmentalist groups.

Among those groups is the Energy Foundation, which has received nearly $65 million from Sea Change.

Updated: Comment from CEDC’s Jeff King added above.

 

[Lachlan Markay is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon.]

Why the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement is a Farce

Focus on stocks ignores fact that much of dirty energy investment takes place on private markets

July 7, 2014
by Matthew Cunningham-Cook

College campuses across the country have been abuzz with protests calling for the divestment of university endowments and public pension funds from fossil fuels. As a result of the pressure, Stanford University has begun to divest its $18.7 billion endowment from coal stocks. Union Theological Seminary in New York has begun a divestment process as well. Cities have born the brunt of protests as well, and a growing number of them are making decisions to stop investing city funds in dirty energy.

It appears to be a noble, even necessary idea. The campaign, led largely by 350.org (which is headed by the environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben), seeks to stop the continued exploitation of fossil fuel reserves, which it rightly considers a one-way road to climate-change disaster.

But the fossil fuel divestment movement is, at best, a misguided endeavor and, at worst, a self-defeating roadblock. The changes being proposed will do little to stop investment in the fossil fuel economy. Severely hampering the campaign is its focus on publicly traded securities such as stocks and bonds — when much of the fossil fuel investment today is taking place on private markets.

Reading between the lines

Take Massachusetts, where the fossil fuel divestment campaign is attempting to win its first legislative victory. A bill is calling for state pension funds to divest from all publicly traded securities related to fossil fuel companies. Similar language holds for Stanford University, where 350.org has claimed its first major campus victory. According to a press release from the group, Stanford “will not make direct investments of endowment funds in publicly traded companies whose principal business is the mining of coal for use in energy generation.”

Notice the words “publicly traded.” In other words, fossil fuel divestment would target only major corporations that are listed on the stock market. But pension funds and endowments, the entities largely targeted by the 350.org campaign, invest hundreds of billions of dollars in privately traded securities, such as hedge funds and private equity — vehicles that are invested at all levels of the fossil fuel economy. (In particular, hedge funds and private equity have been found to be the key financial backers of the fracking boom.) Were the Massachusetts divestment bill to pass, state pension funds would invariably still be invested in the fossil fuel economy.

The divestment campaign argues that 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies dominate the fossil fuel exploration market. But they ignore that such companies frequently depend on private equity and hedge funds for financing new investments when large banks are uninterested in taking on further risk. The public can rarely (if ever) verify that these types of arrangements take place, even if it is a teacher attempting to verify what her pension fund is doing with her money.

Pension funds and endowments have not always invested in the private market. In the 1980s and before, in fact, they were almost exclusively invested in publicly traded securities. Laws such as the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Company Act of 1940 allowed the public to verify how the companies in which pension funds and endowments were investing used their funds and provided transparency to investors in order to prevent fraudulent activity.

The anti-apartheid divestment campaign against South Africa during the 1980s thus carried the possibility of ceasing Western investment in that country. For example, largely as a result of pressure from activists, IBM spun off its South African subsidiary in 1986. Investigators were able to look through all of IBM’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and successfully verify that IBM no longer had investments in South Africa.

By focusing only on publicly traded securities, the fossil fuel divestment campaign ignores the corporate misdeeds of a sector that holds billions of dollars of investments in a dirty energy economy.

The same is not possible with privately traded alternative investments, which have been on the rise since the early 1990s. (It is difficult to ascertain why exactly pension funds and endowments have funneled assets into private markets, as there is little evidence that they perform any better than stocks and bonds and a great deal of evidence that they are far riskier. Private market money managers are notorious as great salesmen, and a series of pay-to-play scandals have implicated some of the largest hedge funds and private equity firms.) Regardless, today pension funds and endowments are by far the largest investors in hedge funds and private equity. Thus only through a wholesale divestment from all alternative investments could the public verify that a given pension fund or endowment lacks fossil fuel investments.

Conflicts of interest

Further compromising the campaign is its questionable line of funding. It has received at least $350,000 from Jeremy Grantham, a hedge fund manager who oversees more than $500 million in assets for public pension funds in Massachusetts. According to a report from Inside Philanthropy, 350.org also receives funding from billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. (The organization declined to state exactly how much money it has received from Steyer and Grantham.)

Farallon Capital Management, which Steyer founded, has major investments at all levels of the fossil fuel economy. While he is no longer at the helm, during his leadership it pursued major deals in fossil fuels, as a recent report from Reuters showed. In fact, the firm had been a target of student activists before he began funding them. Activists criticized Farallon for attempting to privatize a massive aquifer in Colorado in 1994. More recently, Farallon has made major investments in coal mines in Indonesia and Australia.

Grantham, for his part, argued in an interview with The Guardian that he felt that student activists should “stamp their feet” to get their university endowments to divest from fossil fuels “because they can do that.” With his firm’s significant investments in the fossil fuel economy — according to first quarter 2014 filings, $1.2 billion in Chevron, $570 million in ExxonMobil and $240 million in Monsanto — he, apparently, cannot.

The campaign endangers its legitimacy — and shows how toothless it is — by accepting funding from Steyer and Grantham. Both have a clear financial interest in routing pension fund and endowment investments further from publicly traded securities and into the private markets dominated by their firms. In other words, they stand to benefit from a successful divestment campaign that focuses only on publicly traded securities.

The way forward

By focusing only on publicly traded securities, the fossil fuel divestment campaign ignores the corporate misdeeds of a sector that holds billions of dollars of investments in a dirty energy economy. The divestment campaign would be far more effective if it argued that institutional investors must fully divest — not only from publicly traded fossil fuel stocks but also from the private securities market, a black hole of deregulation that features some of the highest-compensated people in human history.

For the climate justice movement to gain any ground, it will require what Martin Luther King Jr. called “a revolution of values.” Hedge funds and private equity must be held to the same standards as the retirement funds of millions of working-class Americans. The climate justice movement should demand more than an Astroturf campaign that ultimately enriches the wealthy at the expense of retirees and kids on financial aid.

 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified the amount that Tom Steyer, through his foundation, contributes to 350.org. It is less than $1 million, though the organization does not disclose the exact amounts it receives from foundations.

 

[Matthew Cunningham-Cook is a freelance journalist focusing on labor and the retirement crisis. He has written for The Nation, Labor Notes and The Public Employee Press.]

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