Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has pledged to spend $500 million to shut down coal-fired plants by 2030 — and prevent natural gas from replacing it — in part by bankrolling candidates who support his climate change agenda.
Mr. Bloomberg launched Friday the Beyond Carbon campaign, a project of Bloomberg Philanthropies, partnering with the Sierra Club and Earthjustice to hasten the demise of coal-powered energy and block natural gas plants.
Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Carbon director, called it “the largest philanthropic investment in climate action in history.”
“Our goal is to move the U.S. toward a 100% clean energy economy as expeditiously as possible, beginning right now,” said Mr. Bloomberg in a graduation speech at MIT. “We intend to succeed not by sacrificing things we need but by investing in things we want: more good jobs, cleaner air and water, cheaper power, more transportation options, and less congested roads.”
Mr. Bloomberg credited Beyond Coal, his joint campaign with the Sierra Club, for shutting down 289 coal-fired plants since 2011.
“That includes 51 that we’ve retired since the 2016 presidential election — despite all the bluster from the White House,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
Those plants, however, have been largely replaced by natural gas, which has boomed as U.S. costs fall and production rises, thanks to extraction technologies led by hydraulic fracturing. That transition has been responsible in large part for reducing U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions from 2005-17 by 27%.
Even so, climate change groups have fought the rise of natural gas, which is cleaner-burning than coal, in favor of wind and solar power, despite concerns about higher prices and reliability.
“Bloomberg has it in for blue-collar workers and affordable energy,” said Climate Depot’s Marc Morano.
Wind energy makes up 6.6% of U.S. electricity generation and solar accounts for 1.6%, versus 35.1% for natural gas and 27.4% for coal, according to 2018 figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“Billionaire Bloomberg, who owns 12 houses, a private jet, and a helicopter, wants to make your electricity more expensive,” tweeted the American Energy Alliance after the Beyond Carbon unveiling.
Erin Mundahl, spokesperson for Energy in Depth, a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said that natural gas “is greatly reducing U.S. emissions.”
“Michael Bloomberg has always believed that by virtue of his staggering wealth, he knows what is best for the American people, and so has embarked on yet another ambitious attempt to force his unrealistic and dangerous policies on a populace that did not elect him,” said Ms. Mundahl. “His money may be able to buy him power and influence, but it cannot change the fact that natural gas remains the country’s most affordable source of reliable baseload power.”
The Beyond Carbon campaign also seeks to replace gas and diesel vehicles with electric cars; heat and cool buildings with green-powered electricity instead of oil and natural gas, and adopt “regenerative farming practices.”
In addition, “Beyond Carbon will work to elect state and local climate champions. Elected representatives willing to lead on climate will drive progress from the local level,” said the Beyond Carbon website.
Mr. Bloomberg’s other climate initiatives include America’s Pledge, launched in 2017 to help states meet the goals of the Paris agreement after President Trump vowed to exit, and the 2018 American Cities Climate Challenge, aimed at reducing emissions at the local level.