Is Michael Bloomberg trying to make Donald Trump president again? You have to wonder after the New York billionaire last month rolled out a putatively philanthropic climate campaign called Beyond Petrochemicals. Its aim is to kill more than 120 planned US petrochemical projects. Is destroying tens of thousands of good-paying jobs Mr. Bloomberg’s idea of charity?
Hillary Clinton’s verbal slipup at a town hall in March 2016 that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” fired up Mr. Trump’s base. Not only were coastal liberal elites coming for their guns; they were gunning for their jobs, too. Mr. Bloomberg is now reminding Trump voters that destroying the coal industry was only the start.
Mr. Bloomberg says his Beyond Petrochemicals campaign will build on other anti-fossil-fuel campaigns that he’s helped bankroll and that he credits with helping shut down more than 65% of US coal plants over the past decade. But at least when coal plants shut down in the past, utilities had an alternative in cheap and abundant natural gas.
Shale fracking has also produced a petrochemical manufacturing boom in the Gulf Coast and Appalachia, which has lifted the regions’ low-income communities. But there are currently no alternatives to most petrochemicals, which are used in plastics, face masks, medications, building materials, advanced electronics, solar panels and much more. Mr. Bloomberg’s alternative is to ship the jobs to China.
President Biden recently launched a government initiative to boost manufacturing from plant-based materials. Has he or Mr. Bloomberg ever tried drinking from a paper straw?
The same liberal mindset that drove Mr. Bloomberg’s crusade as mayor of New York City against big-gulp soda is behind his campaign to ban fossil fuels: High-minded progressives know what’s best for the country, and commoners are too ignorant to figure it out.
The Bloomberg campaign plans to spend $85 million on lobbying and litigation against these projects. “Beyond Petrochemicals will scale the work being done by frontline groups and aligned organizations who are leading the fight to end petrochemical pollution in these communities,” the press release says. Urban pollution, Mr. Bloomberg really means production.
Petrochemical manufacturing naturally generates some pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide. But these are regulated by states and the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Bloomberg’s press release says petrochemical plants have been linked to cancer, but this link is as weak as the one between greenhouse-gas emissions, rising temperatures and hurricanes.
A meta-analysis last year of studies on cancer incidence and mortality in communities with petrochemical plants did not find a consistent positive association. In any case, US petrochemical plants are a lot cleaner than Chinese solar-panel factories that use forced labour. Petrochemical workers in the US make on average $82,100, compared with $50,710 for solar-panel installers.
Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign isn’t about improving public health. It’s about banishing fossil fuels. “As the world transitions to clean and renewable energy, demand for oil is projected to shift from trucks, aviation and shipping to petrochemicals,” his press release says. Ergo, petrochemicals are the next target for extinction.
If the 120 proposed petrochemical projects are built, Mr. Bloomberg says, it will be “nearly impossible for the US to meet its Paris Agreement climate goals.” Some progressives claim disingenuously that their net-zero climate agenda does not require the elimination of fossil fuels because technologies could potentially capture their carbon emissions. Yet such technologies are currently costly even with government subsidies and are difficult to scale.
Mr. Bloomberg, to his credit, doesn’t pretend that carbon capture can serve as a halfway house to a net-zero world. He wants a world without fossil fuels, which is as fanciful as an inane experiment described in “Gulliver’s Travels” to extract sunbeams from cucumbers to keep warm.
Mr. Bloomberg is hardly the only rich guy who has declared war on working people. Former San Francisco hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer is spending the fortune he made from coal mining investments to kill fossil-fuel jobs. John Kerry, whose wife is an heiress to the Heinz family fortune, is globe-trotting on a mission to keep poor people in the US and abroad impoverished.
“No one should make it easy for the gas interests to be building out 30- or 40-year infrastructure, which we’re then stuck with and you know the fight will be ‘well we can’t close these because of the employment, because of the investors, et cetera,’ ”Mr. Kerry said in April. Translation: Keep jobs and investment in the ground.
The left’s religious anti-fossil-fuel crusade is driving up energy prices and contributing to political instability around the world. Populists thrive amid economic discontent. Democrats gave rise to Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016 with their cultural and economic condescension. If Mr. Bloomberg and his fellow climaters get their way, they could do it again.
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