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The Billionaire Against Big Oil

Climate
The Billionaire Against Big Oil

Oil Change International

By Andy Rowell

Tom Steyer, a California billionaire and founder of one of the largest hedge funds, argues that the Keystone XL has become the defining issue in the climate change fight of our times.

Environmentalists are used to having to fight an opposition with deep pockets.

And Big Oil normally has deeper pockets than most. Moreover the Canadian and Albertan governments have also spent millions of dollars on the pro-tar sands message and fight.

The latest cash to be splashed by the Albertans resulted in an advertisement in The New York Times on Sunday under the headline “Keystone XL: The Choice of Reason.”

The trouble for the Canadians is that they have long believed their own propaganda, arguing that everyone against the pipeline is wrong and somehow they are right, somehow against all the science, the facts and the odds, they are the voice of reason.

They have tried to win the pro-tar sands argument by repeatedly bullying both Europe and America. The latest broadside was from Albertan Premier Alison Redford who has warned that rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline by the Obama administration would undermine the economic relationship between the two countries.

But as the White House dithers over Keystone XL, the Canadians now face a new and very deep-pocketed foe: Tom Steyer, a California billionaire and founder of one of the largest hedge funds, Farallon Capitol. He retired in October last year to turn to full time activism.

Steyer argues that Keystone XL “has become the defining issue in the climate change fight of our times,” says his spokesperson, Chris Lehane.

Steyer has controversially waded into the Democratic race in Massachusetts, where the race is on to choose a new candidate to replace John Kerry, with Steyer attempting to undermine the pro-Keystone candidate, Stephen Lynch.

Massachusetts “is the next front where the Keystone fight will be engaged,” argues Lehane, adding that Steyer “plays to win. Obviously since the evil empire, i.e. Big Oil, is on the other side, he’s willing to invest [funds].”

In a letter sent to Lynch by Steyer on behalf of four environmental activists, it says: ‘‘Saying you’re for solving climate change while supporting Keystone is like claiming to be a Red Sox fan—except when they play the Yankees.’’

Steyer has warned Lynch to “act like a real Democrat and oppose Keystone’s dirty energy. Or, get a sworn, binding statement—with securities law enforcement—from TransCanada and the refiners that all of the Keystone-shipped oil will stay [in the U.S.].”

“If you can’t or won’t do either, then you’ll be showing us that you stand with Republicans and a wealthy foreign oil company and against solving the climate crisis,” the letter argues.

Of course Lynch cannot do this, as Oil Change International has repeatedly shown the Keystone XL is essentially an export pipeline.

If Lynch does not drop his support for Keystone XL, Steyer will spend loads of money backing his opponent who is already the front runner, congressman Edward Markey, who is against the Keystone XL.

Markey is already being backed by 350 Action, the political arm of 350.org and League of Conservation Voters.

Steyer’s ultimatum expires at “high noon” on Friday.

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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