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Tom Steyer - The Left's "Koch Brother" and Driver of Green Energy Policy

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by ChievousFTFace, Jun 5, 2015.

  1. ChievousFTFace

    ChievousFTFace Contributing Member

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    We see how much the Koch brothers are in the limelight due to their political contributions and affiliations. Little is talked about when it comes to their equal on the left, Tom Steyer. I know this is a long read, but I hope you see the dangers in how one rich and powerful man can shape a political landscape. I spoilered sections for easier reading.

    Part I: Who is he?
    Wikipedia link
    Early career
    Prior to joining Hellman & Friedman, Steyer worked at Goldman Sachs from 1983-85 as an associate in the risk arbitrage department under Robert Rubin. He began his professional career at Morgan Stanley in 1979.[2]

    Farallon Capital Management
    Steyer founded Farallon Capital Management, LLC in January 1986.[13] Farallon employs approximately 165 people in eight offices globally and is headquartered in San Francisco, California.[14] Farallon is considered a pioneer in the practice of “absolute return” investing, a strategy that aims to produce a positive absolute return regardless of the directions of financial markets.[2] To that end, Farallon makes credit investments, value investments, merger arbitrage, real estate-related investments and direct investments. It also invests in public and private debt and equity securities, and direct investments in private companies and real estate.[15]

    Steyer announced in October 2012 that he would be stepping down from his position at Farallon in order to focus on political activism, in particular on advocating for alternative energy.[16] He cited his desire to focus on giving back "full time" and to revolve his life around service. In an interview he said, "I've tried to organize a business voice for what I call advanced energy....I think I'm going to be focused on how to, is there a way to move the needle in some way having to do with thought or policy. And I don't know what shape that's going to take.”

    Investments in coal projects
    Steyer decided to dispose of his carbon-polluting investments in 2012, although critics say he didn't dispose of them fast enough. Steyer sold his ownership stake in Farallon, but still owns an investment, although his aides said he no longer earns profits. Some of the coal mines and coal power plants they invested in will continue to operate for as much as 30 years. For example, Farallon made tens of millions of dollars from developing the Maules Creek coal mine in Australia, which is opposed by environmentalists.

    Part II: Can you really compare him to the Koch Brothers?
    Based on the list of top 16 wall street political donors in 2015,
    Tom Steyer blows everybody out of the water with $167M!!! From a sheer net worth perspective, Steyer ($2.6B) can't touch the Koch Brothers. However, he has proven that he can generate extremely powerful political connections.

    Steyer pledged to spend $100M as this article states: "The Kochs are far richer, but Tom Steyer’s $100 million pledge has them looking like cheapskates in the political field. Koch Industries spent $18 million on federal elections from 1989 to 2013, placing it 59th on a list of campaign donors compiled by Open Secrets."


    Where was that $100M pledge spent? From the "2014 Political Influence" of his wiki:
    1. Funding political campaigns in at least seven states to influence climate change policy through his PAC, NextGEN Climate.
    2. In June, Steyer said he planned to get involved in California legislature to affect climate change policy by targeting three to four races in each house of the Legislature.
    3. In the summer, he founded a political action committee in Florida, leading a major investment in the Gubernatorial race.
    4. Steyer cited Florida's pivotal role in the 2016 presidential election and its geographic position, which makes it highly vulnerable to climate change, as reasons for his focus on the state.

    Part III: NextGen Climate Action - Another Citizen's United
    As stated by Part II, he wants to influence climate change policy through his PAC. This is the equivalent to Citizen's United in that it's a toolbox that was opened to wealthy donors and other interests in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. His group is called NextGen Climate Action. Click here for a deeper financial review and it doesn't take long to see the link of this group actively campaigning against Republicans in battleground states.

    The money trail is there to prove that he's doing exactly what he said he would do in Part II. It is a deep web of donating that reaches countless politicians and the groups/vendors that promotes their campaigns. Not only does this help politicians, but these funds are also going towards pushing environmental issues. Click around on this site for yourself to see.

    Part IV: Private Sector Solar Investments - Sungevity
    Steyer is no longer in the hedge fund or coal mining business. He's turned all of his attention to funding and promoting green energy companies.

    Two companies that he majority interest in are:
    1. $6M to Greener Capital Investments - company details and investments
    2. $21M to Brightpath and Capital Partners - company details and investments

    Both of these companies have invested in a company called Sungevity. Don't let the cute name fool you, it's a company that has received $210M in Private Equity funding since 2013. It's also gone global!

    Massive environmentalist group promoted company that's already in Australia!!! It just so happens to be started by a 12 year Greenpeace activist that's from Down Undah! "A native of Australia, Kennedy is a 12-year veteran of Greenpeace, where he started out in the 1990s working to block oil projects in Africa and went on to run the organization’s California Clean Energy campaign." Ok... an interesting success story.


    Part V: Building a Solar Empire Through Political Contributions and Supported By US Treasury 1603 Program
    In 2011, Steyer founded the Advanced Energy Economy (AEE). This is a trade association representing the advanced energy industry. AEE's goal is to influence public policy and provide a unified industry voice about the economic opportunities that advanced energy and technologies can bring to the United States. Here is a link to the AEE initiatives page for more reading.

    Looking at the Board of Directors of the AEE, I would like to bring one group to your attention for now:
    Arno Harris, CEO & Chairman, Recurrent Energy and Board Chair, Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA)

    The Solar industry has grew from $800 million to $15 Billion between 2006 and 2013 according to this article. It's about the SEIA actively campaigning the extension of the US Treasury 1603 Program.

    The 1603 Program created the Solar Investment Tax Credit which gives corporations a 30% rebate on solar and wind technology purchases. This program made sense for 2006-2008 when we saw huge oil prices. We did something similar during the Carter administration (1979 Iran crisis) and it was later repealed when oil prices went back down.

    One of the largest beneficiaries of rule 1603 just happens to be SUNGEVITY. It just so happens that Sierra Club's partner in solar is... Sungevity!They were also under investigation for price misrepresentation.

    It can also be noted that Martin Lagod, Founder of Firelake Capital Management and a Board of Director of the AEE is also a donor to Sungevity.

    So here we have Sungevity benefitting at the federal level thanks to Steyer's connections and donations.

    Part VI: California Influence
    Prior to entering the political fold, Steyer's hedge fund group took heat for his ties to Pelosi and her ability to get subsidies to fund multiple projects centered around Steyer's fund assets. I will disclaim that this link is biased but breaks down the Steyer-Pelosi connection.

    Steyer used his enormous pockets and clout to promote a $1.1 billion tax on out of state businesses with operations in California to fund renewable energy projects by donating $30M of his own money to help this initiative pass (http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2012/1108/California-Proposition-39-results-in-2.5-billion-for-energy-efficiency). So we have both the SEIA and Steyer pushing hard to increase tax revenue for California to be allocated for renewables spending.

    I wonder if Sungevity, with their ties to Steyer, could benefit from Prop 39...
    The California Clean Energy Jobs Act (Prop. 39) changed the corporate income tax code and allocates projected revenue to California's General Fund and the Clean Energy Job Creation Fund for five fiscal years, beginning with fiscal year 2013-14. Under the initiative, roughly up to $550 million annually is available for appropriation by the Legislature for eligible projects to improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy generation in schools.

    Yeah... they stand to land $550M per year from California alone!

    Part VII: Why should you care?
    What we see above is a billionaire who has bought extensive political clout at the state and federal levels to help fund green companies that he has a vested interest in. He has also been the driving force behind the Keystone Pipeline resistance and is financing the agenda for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. I didn't even research his wind connections. Perhaps I'll do a part 2 for fun... but you guys were probably bored by this anyways :)

    We've seen a 1975% increase in the value of the solar industry from 2006 to 2013. I believe that it's a good thing to diversify our energy portfolio to include more solar. With that being said, are we buying into scare tactics that are making this billionaire richer? It makes you wonder where the largest environmentalist groups are getting their funding from and if you can trust what the media has been paid to portray when it comes to what Steyer has been pushing all along.
     
    #1 ChievousFTFace, Jun 5, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  2. percicles

    percicles Contributing Member

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    He's really poor by billionaire standards. Not the same.
     
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  3. cml750

    cml750 Contributing Member

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    Ever hear of a guy named George Soros????
     
  4. ChievousFTFace

    ChievousFTFace Contributing Member

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    He's trying to fix that through the AEE. He has the connections and ability.
     
  5. CometsWin

    CometsWin Breaker Breaker One Nine
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    I guess I don't equate Steyer investing in and lobbying for what is an inevitability, the need for alternative fuels, with the Koch brothers trying to destroy unions simply to line their own pockets. It's curious why you would equate the two.
     
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  6. ChievousFTFace

    ChievousFTFace Contributing Member

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    The government has spent more on subsidies for renewable energy than fossil fuels since the first Iranian crisis in 1973. They've been researching solar since the 50s (for military use).

    It's hypocritical to point the finger at the Koch Brothers and not at another billionaire entrenching himself with democrats to pump up the companies that he sees fit. His ties to Sungevity, AEE, and the democrats financed is doing what you just said the Koch brothers are doing... He's "lining his pockets." Sungevity is probably just one of many companies on the solar and wind side that he has a vested interest in.
     
  7. SamFisher

    SamFisher Virtuous
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    The Kochs get the finger pointed at them because the candidates they buy and legislation they support is objectively terrible, in no uncertain terms.

    This is a high school level objection. It's irrelevant that theres a solar energy magnate who does not espouse terrible policies.
     
  8. CometsWin

    CometsWin Breaker Breaker One Nine
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    He's lining his pockets by investing in something that's a benefit to society. You have a problem with that? So, you would have a problem with Ford lobbying the government to build roads as he pumped out Model T's? Edison lobbying the government to build electronic transmission lines? Seriously? There's no benefit to society in destroying collective bargaining. This isn't even a remotely serious comparison. It's not hypocrisy to allow people to get rich while helping society prosper. Holy cow...

    BTW, how many trillions of defense and logistic dollars have been spent in the Middle East as a de facto oil subsidy? I'm guessing a lot more than for solar.
     
    #8 CometsWin, Jun 5, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  9. Dave_78

    Dave_78 Member

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    Go easy on him. He didn't think this through before posting
     
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  10. ChievousFTFace

    ChievousFTFace Contributing Member

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    You assume that solar and wind are perfect technologies. We absolutely need them, when we're ready for them and when their economically feasible. There are plenty of environmental impacts to solar when it comes to endangered birds and cadmium. Wind energy is clean, but wind systems are very dirty and have their own dangers.

    Society isn't prospering when you eliminate the jobs you subjectively dislike and add the jobs you like... Especially when it's a net negative.

    And yes, you're a hypocrite if you think Steyer's lobbying is right and Koch's lobbying is wrong. It's the same beast that we are trying to get rid of.
     
    #10 ChievousFTFace, Jun 5, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  11. CometsWin

    CometsWin Breaker Breaker One Nine
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    Spoken like an executive in any endangered industry from the horse and buggie to the telegram to big oil. The need to switch from oil isn't subjective, not even a little bit. It seems you present a lot of unsubstantiated rhetoric.

    I have to laugh when you claim solar is bad for the environment when the status quo is a dangerous and way the hell more dirty dependence on oil. I mean, wow.

    I don't feel lobbying in and of itself is a good or bad thing necessarily until money and corporate personhood are involved. What you're lobbying for sure as hell can be a good or bad thing however. There's zero hypocrisy in that. Yes, government investment in alternative energy is good and destroying collective bargaining is bad.

    If you want to ban all corporate lobbyists and have publicly funded election campaigns I'd have no problem at all.
     
  12. ChievousFTFace

    ChievousFTFace Contributing Member

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    I didn't say solar was bad for the environment. I said that its not a perfect source of energy and has its issues. I'm for an "all of the above" energy portfolio.

    If you hate oil, please stop driving a car and using anything with plastic. If you're afraid of greenhouse gasses, you shouldn't eat meat from farms or else you're promoting an industry that is responsible for the most methane and nitrous oxide release on the planet.

    Trust me when I say that I know more about greenhouse gas emissions than you do. I know about how the drilling operations are regulated on the state level in multiple states. I've worked with federal and state agencies to comply with current regulations. There is so much misinformation and scare tactics being spread.

    If you really want sound knowledgeable about energy you should research the pros and cons of the following sources:

    Hydroelectric
    Natural gas
    Coal
    Petroleum
    Solar
    Wind
    Nuclear

    None of these are perfect and have their own individual issues.
     
  13. ChievousFTFace

    ChievousFTFace Contributing Member

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    The Koch brothers have made it abundantly clear that they believe the left is trending towards socialism. So now they've lobbied for obstructionism across the board. On a personal level, I have never voted for and do not plan on supporting their candidates at this time for social reasons.

    There are plenty of democrats that also prefer free markets and deregulation over socialism, including the New Dems (Bill Clinton being one of them). We are at a crossroads between progressives and new democrats. Hillary is a new dem but already got endorsed by Steyer. If she shifts left and the republicans can manage to not put up someone that's a complete turd, you're gonna see some Dems jump ship.

    If you took five minutes and attempted to drop a political bias you could research and see that the Koch's donate plenty of money to other causes that you would agree with. They also give their employees with same sex spouses equal benefits. Not everything is so black and white.

    If you think lobbying is bad, you should dislike Steyer's methods as much as you dislike the Koch bros. You don't get to use an uninformed and selective moral compass to justify your hypocrisy.
     
  14. NewRoxFan

    NewRoxFan Contributing Member

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    Here's where your argument falls apart. First, You assume everyone... or even anyone, believes that solar and wind energy technology is perfect.

    No one does. But just because they aren't perfect is not a reason to not heavily invest in and implement them. Previous energy sources and technologies weren't perfect. None will be.

    Next, you try to avoid looking completely out of touch by saying we need wind and solar. But then your argument falls apart by saying "when we are ready for them." Accepting the first premise... "no energy source or technology will be perfect", we need to implement and advance the existing solar and wind technologies.

    The rest of your argument "Koch versus Steyer" is just smoke...
     
  15. rimbaud

    rimbaud Contributing Member

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    So wait...Hillary Clinton will suddenly switch left towards socialism if she gets elected? Hillary. Clinton. Hillary? Clinton?
     
  16. Dubious

    Dubious Contributing Member

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    So a guy working to save the planet is the equal to guys who are at best indifferent to the fate of the planet> did you really start a thread thinking this?
     
  17. Cohete Rojo

    Cohete Rojo Contributing Member

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    As much as I would like for people to stop burning oil as a fuel, it is just not going to happen anytime soon. Solar energy has yet to make a dent in the US total energy production. In 2013, solar energy accounted for .4% of total US energy production, but accounted for alomst $3 billion of direct cash subsidies (23% of total). That's the problem I see with solar energy in the US: it takes massive amounts of cash money from the federal government to support.
     
  18. ChievousFTFace

    ChievousFTFace Contributing Member

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    The point is calling out hypocrisy and clearly I'm right. If you truly believe that greenhouse gasses are an existential threat to humanity, then you're gonna be shocked when you realize that the shifts in energy policy that are being called for are just a drop in the bucket.

    We can't trust the anti socialist Koch brothers... But we can trust a hedge fund founding, coal mining billionaire because he's lead you to believe he's altruistic in saving the environment?

    The film Gas Lands was the beginning of the anti-fracking movement. It didn't catch on until a media barrage was paid for around the time Steyer started pushing his agenda. There's no direct link but the timing is funny.

    The next thing you will see is the push to control the food supply and how we do agriculture. Research the film Cowspiracy. It's gonna be a couple of years before the same type of agenda is pushed on big agriculture. After that it will be about population control.

    I am not going to sit here and deny that greenhouse gasses caused by humankind aren't trapping heat in the atmosphere. I just believe that scare tactics and billionaire money have been used to create a boogeyman and now there's an extremist element that has infiltrated the party I grew up in and still have more in common in than the other. I don't like scare tactics naturally because they were used to get us into the Iraq war.
     
    #18 ChievousFTFace, Jun 6, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2015
  19. ChievousFTFace

    ChievousFTFace Contributing Member

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    Thanks for reiterating the point I was trying to make about no perfect tech. I didn't say we shouldn't heavily invest in them. I only stated that there was a huge lobbying billionaire profiting from it using the same tactics that people loathe... but it's ok because he's a "good guy"

    "When we are ready for them" was vague and I'll clarify.

    1. A solar business, from a retail level, is economically viable for citizens in states where there are high electricity rates and also where there is good radiation. This works for California and they have moved towards solar because the market has driven them to.

    For the other states that don't have these factors we need a way to make solar compatible with existing sources of energy!

    2. We don't know the utility scale environmental impact to a shift in solar in a mass scale. Shouldn't we do more environmental assessments in areas where we have high levels of radiation and are unpopulated to study the ecological impacts while the technology continues to be researched and improved to be viable in states with low radiation?

    Here is a good review citing some issues.

    3. There has been significant renewables investment by very rich and powerful "oil" men. You don't need to look further than T. Boone Pickens and the wind corridor.

    I don't have a problem with Steyer investing in Solar and Wind. It's his money and his right to do what he wants with it. The problem is the lobbying on both state and federal levels to prop up the one company that happens to be promoted by one the largest environmental groups there is.

    So you're saying he has no pull with the California legislative to have Sungevity get access to the $550M/year? You're saying that his political ties and donations in Washington don't have an affect on how they vote on the 1603 Program and Tax Breaks that benefit his company the most? You're saying that he's purely altruistic in his fight for green energy?
     
    #19 ChievousFTFace, Jun 6, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2015
  20. NewRoxFan

    NewRoxFan Contributing Member

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    Straw man much? As soon as you write this you lose any argument...
     

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