Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer are two of the wealthiest anti-fossil fuels crusaders. In June, Bloomberg promised to spend another $500 million eradicating coal and starting to target natural gas power plants too.
Yet, USA Today failed to connect the dots between either billionaire and the left-wing groups, including the Rocky Mountain Institute, it turned to as experts in an anti-natural gas story Sept. 9.
“As Earth faces climate catastrophe, US set to open nearly 200 power plants,” the USA Today headline proclaimed.
Elizabeth Weise’s article began with a dire, apocalyptic vision of climate change impact: “Powerful hurricanes. Record-breaking heatwaves. Droughts that bring ruin to farmers. Raging forest fires. The mass die-off of the world's coral reefs. Food scarcity.”
She then seized upon United Nations claims that carbon emissions must be drastically reduced before complaining that utilities are still investing “heavily in carbon-polluting natural gas.” USA Today found 177 natural gas plants planned, announced or under construction in addition to roughly 2,000 in operation.
She quoted gas opponents Michael Brune of the Sierra Club and analysis from the Rocky Mountain Institute that claimed to prove natural gas plants don’t make financial sense. Brune called gas a “ticking time bomb” and insisted “new plants can’t be built.”
But both groups have financial ties to media mogul Michael Bloomberg that were not disclosed in the story. RMI is also linked to Steyer through its Trustees Board Chair Edward White. White is the managing partner of Fahr, LLC “the umbrella entity for business leader, philanthropist, and renewable energy advocate Tom Steyer’s business, policy, political, and philanthropic efforts.”
Bloomberg has committed at least $600 million towards the Sierra Club’s efforts to shut down all U.S. coal plants (and to start opposing gas plants). Bloomberg also announced a $2.3 million grant as part of “America’s Pledge” to RMI and the University of Maryland in May 2019. RMI’s website brags about being the co-leader for analytical work for Bloomberg’s “American’s Pledge” efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
She also turned to alarmist climate scientists and “clean energy advocates” to further bolster arguments against natural gas, while leaving arguments for natural gas such as its reliability until very late in the story.
Duke Energy spokeswoman Erin Culbert told USA Today it was striving for “cleaner energy,” but isn’t convinced solar and wind alone will be reliable and cost effective for their customers.
“Continued use of natural gas is key to our ability to speed up coal retirements, and its flexibility helps complement and balance the growing renewables on our system,” Culbert said.