Billionaire Pledges USD$500 Million To Help End U.S. Coal Power

Beyond Carbon

Entrepreneur, philanthropist and three-term Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg is coughing up a big chunk of change to fund an effort to end coal power in the USA.

Coal power in the United States is in its demise, but still accounted for 27.4% of electricity production in 2018. Last year, the amount of operating coal power capacity in the U.S. was 261GW, quite a drop from 2011 when it reached a whisker of 340GW. Domestic coal consumption fell to 687 million short tons in 2018, the lowest level since 1978.

50 coal power station closures along with 51 announcements of closures have occurred since U.S. President Donald Trump was sworn into office in January 2017. President Trump may have declared last year that the war had ended on “beautiful, clean coal”, but when it comes to domestic electricity generation it appears to be bobsledding all the way the graveyard.

Mr. Bloomberg wants to help get it there faster; announcing last Friday that he, with Bloomberg Philanthropies, is committing USD$500 million (around AUD$717.5 million) to launch the Beyond Carbon climate initiative.

“We will push states and utilities to phase out every last U.S. coal-fired power plant by 2030 — just 11 years from now,” he said.

But it’s not just coal the initiative is going after as Beyond Carbon will also attempt to stop the construction of new gas plants to avoid a situation where one fossil fuel replaces another.

“By the time they are built, they will be out of date because renewable energy will be cheaper”.

Assumption: renewable energy + energy storage. Wind and solar energy have plummeted in price and are already competitive with or cheaper than new gas.

What’s not clear is Beyond Carbon’s view of nuclear energy.

Climate Change “A True Crisis”

The other elements of the Beyond Carbon initiative are supporting activism and also local/ state governments in their pursuit of ambitious policies and laws. Beyond Carbon will also be getting involved in elections across the country as climate change is “first and foremost a political problem.”

“Beyond Carbon will mobilize voters to go to the polls and support climate champions, and we will defeat those who try to block action,” states a tweet.

Mr. Bloomberg believes the question isn’t how to address climate change, but rather why we are moving so slowly in doing so.

The initiative is being compared to a “moonshot” type effort – harking back to a time when all the stops were pulled in order that the USA put the first man on the moon.

“Today, I believe that we are living in a similar moment,” he said. “But this time, our most important and pressing mission is not to explore deep space. It’s to save our planet, the one we’re living on, from climate change.”

Mr. Bloomberg has an extensive background in tackling environmental issues and currently serves as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action. An existing partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sierra Club claims to have shut down 289 coal-fired power plants since 2011, although how much credit can be attributed to their efforts is difficult to quantify.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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