A Convert to the Cause

The environmental movement has an unlikely convert to the cause: Tom Steyer, a Californian and hedge fund founder whose funds included shares in fossil fuel and pipeline companies. Last year he came to recognize that climate change was the defining issue for his generation. In words reminiscent of President Obama, he stated: “I have a passion to push for what I believe is the right thing.”

His passion stretched all the way to Massachusetts, where he intervened in the Democratic Primary to succeed Senator John Kerry, who is now the U.S. Secretary of State.  He supported one candidate who opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline, and launched an advertising campaign against another who was in favour.

A Globe and Mail article on Steyer comments that California is a long way from Massachusetts and the Keystone issue is “moot” to Massachusetts voters.   Steyer’s explanation for his involvement is that climate change issues affect all U.S. states.

Keystone XL will facilitate exploitation of the tar sands. The tar sands stands well at the top of projects that will emit significant Greenhouse Gases (GHG) when the world has to reduce emissions.  The fight over Keystone is symbolic of Steyer’s defining issue.

Steyer acknowledges that the record of the U.S. on GHG emissions is not good, in part because of its extensive use of coal for the generation of electricity. Steyer agrees that the U.S. must dramatically reduce usage of coal.  The problem is political:  several U.S. states are rich in coal deposits, so the well-being of many residents in those states is linked with the prosperity of coal mines.

Steyer has been called a hypocrite, as his firm made money on many fossil fuel related stocks.   That is hard criticism, but 4RG trusts that it will not deter many more financial leaders from committing to “the right thing to do.”


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