Eco-Billionaire Says Environmentalists Jedi Knights, Oil Companies Darth Vader

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The fight against global warming is just like the movie Star Wars, hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer told the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to Steyer, environmentalists are like the Jedi — a powerful group of warriors who use the “force” to bring peace to the galaxy and fight the dark side — while fossil fuel companies are like Darth Vader — the dark lord of the Sith, the mortal enemies of the Jedi.

“I like to think about it as ‘Star Wars’ redux,” Steyer said at a fossil fuel divestment event Monday night. “We’ve had this fight before. We will win it again. The Jedi will always return.”

Steyer said that like Darth Vader’s use of the force to choke his victims, oil companies can raise gas prices “in order to punish” people for some unspecified offense.

The comparison is a bit ironic since Steyer made millions off fossil fuel investments through his company Farallon Capital. In fact, Steyer’s hedge fund had holdings in a major competitor of the Keystone XL pipeline while he was actively campaigning against it.

Steyer rose to prominence among environmental groups for his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline on the grounds that it will contribute to global warming. Steyer, a hedge fund manager worth $1.5 billion, has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting environmental causes and opposing Republican candidates.

Steyer spent more than $73 million of his own money defending vulnerable Senate Democrats last election cycle. Steyer also used that money to make global warming a top-tier issue in the last election.

Now Steyer is pushing California state lawmakers to pass a law ordering all public employee retirement funds to divest from fossil fuels. This push is part of a broader push to get schools, government entities and financial institutions to hit fossil fuel companies’ bottom lines by squeezing their finances.

“Climate change is the top priority of the California state Senate,” said California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat. who introduced Steyer’s bill to divest public employee pensions from fossil fuels.

“Coal is a dirty fossil fuel, and we generate very little electricity in California from coal,” said de León. “And I think our values should shift in California.”

This is the latest example of Steyer funneling money to a climate campaign to put the hurt on coal producers.

“If you have a billion dollars, your dance card is going to be full,” Jessica Levinson, professor of political ethics at Loyola University, told SFC. “You’re going to have a lot of friends, and access and power in politics. California is no exception, and Jerry Brown is no exception.”

“If anything it’s openly transactional, and that’s not a bad thing,” Levinson said. “We all know why everyone shows up at Tom Steyer’s events — because he may spend a lot of money supporting candidates and issues. And if you spend it, they will come.”

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