Bloomberg Is Not A Climate Champion

February 24, 2020
 Climate Democracy
Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is betting that he can buy the Democratic nomination. With a voting base that’s increasingly savvy about climate catastrophe and fracking, it may not be that easy.

Bloomberg Is Not A Climate Champion

Billionaire Michael Blooomberg has stormed his way into the Democratic presidential race, thanks to his campaign pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into advertising across the country. This approach appears to be paying off; some national polls put him in second place in the crowded field, and he’s even leading in some states, despite skipping the first round of primaries and caucuses. 

Part of Bloomberg’s appeal is that he has fashioned himself as a climate champion. A closer look at that record, however, reveals a meager, middle-of-the-road approach that is totally out of touch with what is needed to combat the climate crisis.

Michael Bloomberg Is Propping Up Fracking — And Profiting From It 

Bloomberg’s climate reputation rests on his financial support for the Sierra Club’s campaign against coal power plants. But these campaigns cannot make up for his long record supporting fracking and fracked gas. While he boasted on the Nevada debate stage that these efforts have ‘shut down’ coal facilities, the reality is that the industry has faced mounting financial obstacles, much of it due to a shift towards cheaper fracked gas-fired electricity generation. And that is why this approach fails as climate advocacy: Supporting the switch from one form of dirty fossil fuel pollution to another puts us on a climate-threat treadmill. 

Bloomberg didn’t “accidentally” support the fracking boom. He’s long been a champion of the industry. He opposed the fracking ban movement in New York state (we know because we led the movement), and hypes fracked gas as a ‘bridge fuel’. In an op-ed he wrote with fracking CEO George P. Mitchell in 2012, he called fracking “the most significant development in the U.S. energy sector in generations.” 

And Bloomberg has a financial stake in the fracking boom, too. As documented by Derek Seidman, the Bloomberg fortune is managed by the firm Willett Advisors, which is invested in oil and gas companies. Willett’s CEO Steven Rattner also makes appearances in the media as a pundit, like this New York Times op-ed where he criticizes Elizabeth Warren for supporting a ban on fracking.

And Bloomberg has long championed corporate trade pacts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would drive additional fossil fuel exports and sabotage global efforts to combat the the climate crisis.  

Bloomberg Hasn’t Evolved With The Times

The evidence that fracked gas is a climate disaster continues to mount. But has this caused Michael Bloomberg to change his tune? Based on his comments at the Nevada presidential debate, it seems not.

“We’re not going to get rid of fracking for a while,” he said at one point. “It is a technique, and when it’s done poorly, like they’re doing in too many places where the methane gets out into the air, it is very damaging. But it’s a transition fuel.”

He’s wrong, by the way. Of course, the gas industry has spent decades propagating this ‘bridge fuel’ myth. But to make matters more confusing, Bloomberg also acknowledged that the climate crisis is much worse than previously thought: “We want to go to all renewables. But that’s still many years from now… The world is coming apart faster than any scientific study had predicted. We’ve just got to do something now.” If Bloomberg actually believes that, then he would have to conclude that fracking cannot be part of that future.

And it’s important to understand that Bloomberg’s pro-fracking position is in keeping with his overall climate vision.  When The Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund evaluated the candidates’ climate policies, Bloomberg received a score of 1 out of 10 — tied with Amy Klobuchar for last place.

Things Bloomberg Could Do If He Cared About Climate

If Bloomberg really wanted to do something about climate change:

  • He could be spending the $464 million he has dropped on his campaign so far helping to elect real climate champions to Congress. 
  • He could have paid to install over 250 megawatts of wind energy. 
  • He could have paid to install 20 kilowatt rooftop solar systems on more than 8300 homes. 

Instead, he’s standing on the debate stage continuing to promote dangerous, climate destroying drilling.

Back in that 2012 op-ed, Bloomberg wrote: “We can frack safely if we frack sensibly. That may not make for a great bumper sticker. It does make for good environmental and economic policy.” He’s wrong on almost every count. Fracking can’t be done safely, and it’s been an environmental policy disaster. Bloomberg might be able to buy his way into the presidential race, but he cannot purchase a remotely adequate climate plan.