The bloggers over at Powerline, led in this case by the Koch-cozy John Hinderaker, are all in a tizzy this week after the New York Times reported that Tom Steyer, a major political force in the fight for climate justice, used to invest heavily in coal mining operations.
I think Powerline has either misread the Times story or has conveniently ignored the fact that Tom Steyer used to invest in coal, but since transitioning from his career as a hedge fund manager to his new role as a full-time climate action crusader, he has divested himself of interests in carbon-intensive industries.
This nothingburger story is being trumped up by Powerline and the right-wing echo chamber as proof of hypocrisy in Steyer’s commitment to fighting climate change.
Powerline blogger John Hinderaker calls the Steyer story “epic hypocrisy.” The only thing epic here is that the seemingly intelligent Mr. Hinderaker does not understand what hypocrisy actually is.
To call Steyer a hypocrite would mean Steyer was saying he is committed to fighting climate change, while behind the scenes still actively investing in things like coal mines.
But he is not. As Bill McKibben points out on Huffington Post, what Steyer did was change his mind on the issue of climate change, which is exactly the right thing to do. Like anything in life, you can change course as you get more information.
While Powerline and Hinderaker are all too eager to criticize Steyer for ending his career as a multi-billionaire investor to devote his time to fighting what scientists are calling the greatest threat to humanity, they are at the same time even more happy to act as cheerleaders for David and Charles Koch, two men who are, in many ways, Steyer’s antithesis.
David and Charles Koch and their company Koch Industries own, operate and continue to invest billions of dollars in fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure projects.
The Koch brothers’ investments seem to have one thing fundamentally in common — their byproduct is carbon pollution, which scientists around the world agree is a key driver of global warming that leads to extreme weather events and climate disruptions we are already witnessing today.
Among their many holdings, David and Charles Koch and their company Koch Industries currently own a 4,000 mile matrix of oil pipelines, an estimated 1.1 million acres in Canadian tar sands land, an $8.6 billion petroleum refinery operation and a global shipping network for transporting coal and chemicals.
The two brothers have at the same time pumped tens of millions of dollars into think tanks and right-wing political groups that fight regulations that would be detrimental to their mind-boggling holdings of carbon-intensive products. Efforts by government to fight climate change and reduce greenhouse gas pollution from industry sources are bad news for a company like Koch Industries.
PowerlineBlog.com and Hinderaker devote much of their time defending the Koch brothers. Which makes sense, given the seemingly close relationship between Hinderaker and Charles Koch.
Case in point, in 2012 when Charles Koch was trying to wrestle back control of the Cato Institute (a think tank he founded in the 70’s), he tapped Hinderaker to jump on Cato’s board and help him out. As Lee Fang wrote for the Republic Report at the time, “the Koch brothers have been fighting to appoint loyalists to the Cato Institute board.” This included:
“John Hinderaker. A writer for PowerLine Blog, Hinderaker has spent much of the last year dutifully repurposing Koch Industries press responses as vicious attacks on critics of the Koch brothers. He failed to disclose, however, that the law/lobbying firm he works for, Faegre and Benson, counts Koch Industries as a major client. Hinderaker is no libertarian: he supports the Patriot Act, torture, warrantless wiretapping, the war in Iraq, and other neoconservative prerogatives. His nomination to Cato was blocked.”
Call me cynical, but I am thinking Hinderaker’s attack on Steyer is motivated by something other than a misunderstanding of the concept of hypocrisy.