Biden Slams Tom Steyer: 'I Don't Need a Lecture' on Climate From a Big Coal Investor

During the Democratic debate on Wednesday, former Vice President Joe Biden attacked environmentalist billionaire investor Tom Steyer for making his money by investing in coal. Steyer has made fighting climate change his key issue in the 2020 race, so Biden's attack was particularly powerful.

"I don’t really need kind of a lecture from my friend," the former VP began. "While I was passing the first climate change bill — that PolitiFact said was a game-changer — while I managed the $90 billion recovery plan investing more money in infrastructure that relates to clean energy than any time we’ve ever done it, my friend was producing more coal mines and produced more coal around the world — according to the press — than all of Great Britain produces."

Biden added, "I welcome him back into the fold here and he’s been there for a long while," but he still attacked Steyer for his history.

The former VP was right. Steyer has poured millions of dollars into the climate change issue, founding the NextGen Climate super PAC (now called NextGen America), which contributed about $74 million to Democratic causes in the 2014 midterms.

Yet despite Steyer's activism, he made his money promoting fossil fuels, private prisons, and subprime lending. Farallon Capital, the hedge fund Steyer founded and which vaulted him to wealth, has pumped hundreds of millions into coal mines and coal power plants, The New York Times reported in 2014. Steyer sold his ownership stake in 2012 but has not cut ties completely.

The Great Britain dig also came from the Times report in 2014:

The New York Times examined the operations of coal-mining companies in which Farallon invested or to which it lent money during Mr. Steyer’s stewardship, which coincided with growing demand and prices for coal. Together, those mines have increased their annual production by about 70 million tons since they received money from the hedge fund, according to corporate records, government data and interviews with industry experts.

That is more than the amount of coal consumed annually by Britain.

Steyer is unlikely to prevail in the 2020 Democratic race, but kudos to Biden for calling out his hypocrisy.

When it comes to Joe Biden, he has long touted his coal country bona fides, but he supported Obama policies that cost more than 80,000 coal miners their jobs. Climate change activism has hefty costs, as demonstrated by the Green New Deal.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.