Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has launched a campaign to retire all U.S. coal plants by 2030 and halt natural gas power plant construction, with a goal to replace all of the fossil fuel facilities with renewable energy sources.
The $500 million ‘Beyond Carbon’ campaign was introduced last Friday by the former mayor of New York City during a commencement address at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Halting construction of natural gas-fired plants is expected to face strong resistance as it has become the fuel of choice. However, Bloomberg said it was not only necessary to reduce carbon emissions but to not invest in technology that could be subplanned with zero carbon sources.
By the time more gas plants are built, Bloomberg said at MIT, “they'll be out of date because renewable will be cheaper.”
Initially planned for spending over the next three years, the fund would target environmental lobbying efforts in state legislatures, city councils and public utility commissions. Political campaigns with renewable energy platforms also would receive funds.
"Politicians keep making promises about climate change mitigation by the year 2050,” which is “hypocritically, after they're long gone, and no one can hold them accountable," Bloomberg said.
Since founding the Beyond Coal campaign in 2011, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sierra Club have spearheaded efforts to shutter coal plants across the United States. According to Beyond Coal, 298 domestic coal power plants have been shut or have plans to shutter ahead of schedule.
“The retirement of coal plants, combined with increasingly efficient use of energy, has been the greatest factor in reducing carbon pollution in the electricity sector,” according to the Beyond Carbon campaign.
“To move the country to a 100% clean electricity sector, coal plants need to be retired at a faster rate, we need to stop the increase in gas power plants and start retiring them, and replace those fossil fuels with clean energy, such as wind and solar.”
Wind and solar resources have declined in price “to the point that they are competitive with or cheaper than fossil fuels, in large part because smart, innovative policy choices have provided economies of scale.”
The Beyond Carbon campaign noted that “many states have instituted renewable energy standards requiring minimum levels of investment. “ For example, California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Washington “have standards requiring 100% clean electricity by 2045.”
Bloomberg and the “father” of unconventional drilling George Mitchell in an opinion piece for the Washington Post offered their unqualified support and a big financial boost for "common sense" hydraulic fracturing (fracking) regulations. Mitchell died in 2013.
"Fracking for natural gas can be as good for our environment as it is for our economy and our wallets, but only if it's done responsibly," wrote Mitchell and Bloomberg. "The rapid expansion of fracking has invited legitimate concerns about its impact on water, air and climate -- concerns that industry has attempted to gloss over."
Onshore gas production using fracking is the "most significant development in the U.S. energy sector in generations, and it affords four major benefits that people on both sides of the debate should welcome,” they wrote.
Gas production is "good for consumers' pocketbooks" because it helps to reduce energy costs. "In the Northeast alone, fracking has helped stimulate major infrastructure investments that will soon bring the first new interstate natural gas pipeline to New York City in decades." Since the editorial, interstate gas pipelines have faced considerable opposition in the state.