Media Disguise Liberal Billionaire Steyer As ‘Climate Change Crusader’

Behind ‘green hero’ mask is a rent-seeking crony capitalist.

While he campaigned for legislation that would severely limit fossil fuel production in the U.S., Steyer simultaneously worked on negotiating a merger that would form Australia’s largest coal company.

On July 27, 2010, The Sacramento Bee reported on Steyer's campaign to block California's Proposition 23, which would have suspended some of California's environmental restrictions for businesses until state unemployment dropped below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. The measure was meant to aid businesses and workers struggling in the tough economic downturn.

Steyer didn’t care. Instead, he asked California voters a loaded question: "[D]o we want California to continue moving forward as a leader in a clean energy economy, including continuing to create new jobs, new economic development and new investment, or do we want to allow two Texas-based oil companies to take our state backward and see the clean energy jobs, business and investment in our state go offshore to [a] place like China?”

But Steyer had already begun Farallon’s takeover of Australia’s Whitehaven Coal company less than a month before his campaign against Prop 23. This takeover would continue into May, 2013, when Farallon became Whitehaven's largest shareholder.

According to The New York Times on July 4, “coal-mining companies in which Farallon invested or to which it lent money during Mr. Steyer’s stewardship, which coincided with growing demand and prices for coal” have “increased their annual production by about 70 million tons since they received money from the hedge fund.”

In August 2013, while Steyer was still in control of Farallon, Whitehaven Coal spoke out against Steyer’s own brand of activism.

“Green activism by those philosophically opposed to coal mining on climate change grounds continues to escalate, with a stated strategy of delaying coal projects and generating publicity through direct action and use of social media," Whitehaven Coal said in a statement. "Government “green tape” has overtaken “red tape” as evidenced by the Maules Creek project approvals.” Farallon was the largest shareholder in Whitehaven Coal at the time of that statement.

Despite his blatant hypocrisy, on Oct 22, 2013, Steyer received an Environmental Achievement Award from the Environmental Law Institute. That was just four months after Farallon became Whitehaven Coal's largest shareholder. And more than seven months before Steyer had finished divesting from Farallon’s fossil fuel portfolio. The Environmental Law Institute has received $900,000 from another liberal billionaire -- George Soros -- since 2004.

Even when Steyer left the day-to-day operations of Farallon to his business partner, Andrew Spokes, he gave no indication that he wanted the hedge fund to divest itself fully from fossil fuels. According to a Reuters article from May 13, 2014, “Spokes co-led Farallon from 2007 and succeeded Steyer after his departure. In Steyer’s final note to investors in 2012, he said Spokes ‘embodies values in which I believe and which distinguish our firm.’”