Billionaire Becomes Climate Change Radical

Monday, 18 Feb 2013 12:58 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Billionaire Thomas Steyer, who is in the running to replace Steven Chu as energy secretary, believes the political victories he and others have won for climate control legislation falls short of what will be needed to avert catastrophic global warming.

Steyer, who made his billions building ae successful hedge fund, is a major Democratic donor who has been using his money and political connections to help prevent what he believes is a looming climate control crisis, reports The Washington Post.

He bankrolled two successful ballot initiatives in California, including one that steers $500 million toward energy-efficiency projects for each of the next five years. He also has funded major research centers at Yale and Stanford, and has spoken to President Barack Obama personally about environmental matters.

Steyer and his immediate family have also donated more than $1.1 million to Democratic candidates since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But while Steyer has mostly stayed behind the scenes when it comes to climate control, on Sunday he took a prominent role, speaking to a crowd of 35,000 Sunday gathered to call for a stronger national climate policy and protest the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.

“I’m not the first person you’d expect to be here today. I’m not a college professor and I don’t run an environmental organization,” he said. “For the last 30 years I’ve been a professional investor and I’ve been looking at billion-dollar investments for decades and I’m here to tell you one thing: The Keystone pipeline is not a good investment.”

Steyer stepped down from the $20 billion Farallon Capital Management at the end of last year, and now runs the Center for the Next Generation, a nonprofit organization he and his brother opened, meaning he's likely to take a more active role in fighting for environmental change.

He may have competition when it comes to the energy secretary position, even though his backers say his combination of business sense and activism would lead him to fill the job well.

MIT professor Ernest Moniz, the department's undersecretary during the Clinton administration, in also the running for energy secretary, and many Washington insiders consider Moniz as a favorite.

Steyer, however, is preparing to launch a report showing how inaction on climate control will affect the United States, but he knows there is a battle ahead when it comes to convincing people of the potential dangers facing the world.

“When you talk about global warming, you’ve lost 90 percent of the public unless you make it real to them,” he said.

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