Steyer and Koch: The Big-Oil Goliath[s]  

In an interview with Politico April 22, hedge fund tycoon Tom Steyer argued that “I think there are real distinctions between the Koch brothers and us.” Perhaps this is true, but there is at least one thing Tom Steyer and the supposedly infamous Koch brothers have in common: they are all big oil billionaires.

Chris Lehane, a former Clinton White House opposition researcher who is now senior advisor to Steyer’s super PAC, NextGen Climate, says this about the Koch brothers: “We are never going to have as much money, but all we need is enough for David’s slingshot to fire through, and to fire fast and to fire quick to be able to reach the big oil Goliath.” (It must not have occurred to Lehane that he mucked up the analogy — one of the Koch brothers is named David. –ed.)

How ironic. Steyer’s own $1.6 billion fortune happened to come from a 26-year stretch at his hedge fund, Farallon, where he speculated in fossil fuels.

He was Farallon’s senior partner until December 31, 2012 when he resigned to take up environmental activism full-time.

A report from the Daily Caller on June 20 reveals that:

According to SEC filings for the first quarter of 2013, Farallon has invested more than $300 million in companies that develop onshore and offshore U.S. assets and pipelines … Farallon also holds about $33.8 million in Dryships, Inc. which owns and operates 10 offshore deepwater drilling units.”

The Koch brothers have an approximate combined net worth of $68 billion. They presently run Koch Industries, which was started by their father, and it is the second largest private company in the United States. Petroleum refining is one of their major industries.

All things considered, therefore, the Koch brothers and Steyer ought to be equally culpable –in the eyes of environmentalists– regarding involvement in fossil fuels.

According to March 2014 SEC filings, Farallon is a new investor in EP Energy which produces oil and natural gas. Outside of the United States, Farallon is the primary stock holder of Whitehaven Coal in Australia. The new Whitehaven mine at Maules Creek is expected to run for 30 years and is to begin production in 2015.

Farallon’s present investment in fossil fuels is not in question. Yet, the fact that environmentalist Steyer could criticize others invested in fossil fuels when he himself has only just completely divested from oil and natural gas is absurd.

It was only in July 2013 that Steyer began to dump energy holdings from his Farallon portfolio. As Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal wrote in April 2014:

“Mr. Steyer had spent months fighting Keystone, attending anti-coal rallies and urging colleges to divest from ‘fossil fuels,’ before the press noted that his money was still parked at Farallon, still profiting from Kinder Morgan pipelines and coal projects. It was only then, last July, that Mr. Steyer issued a press release saying he’d directed his money be moved to a fund that didn’t invest in ‘tar sands’ or ‘coal’ and pledged this process would be complete by the end of 2013.”

This July 2013 pledge did not apply to Steyer’s investments in oil or natural gas. There was no more information provided by Steyer or Farallon regarding the rest of Steyer’s divestment process until this summer. Heather Wong, a spokeswoman of Steyer’s super PAC NextGen Climate, promised in early June that “as of this month [Steyer] will be divested out of fossil fuels altogether.”

Throughout the past year, Steyer has taken it upon himself to attack those who profit from fossil fuels. In particular, Steyer has criticized the actions of the “big oil Goliath” Koch brothers. As Steyer explained in a March interview with Men’s Journal “[Koch is] taking the most incredible risk that I’ve ever seen someone take, of going down in history as just an evil – just a famously evil – person!”

At the time of this interview, Steyer was still profiting from oil and natural gas investments at Farallon.

-Maria Girard (Henry Haller Intern)