For most of the media, the big political news story Tuesday was billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s announcement that he had decided not to join the already crowded Democratic presidential primary field. But that wasn’t the big story.
Bloomberg, the 11th richest man in the world, worth $55 billion, also announced that he would devote his efforts and resources to shuttering every remaining U.S. coal plant — and then move on to replacing oil and gas with clean energy.
The former Republican (and then centrist independent) was always going to be a long-shot to win a Democratic primary, especially at a time when so much of the party’s energy is coming from its progressive wing.
Bloomberg acknowledged that himself in the statement he posted on Bloomberg.com Tuesday. He still stands by what he said about President Donald Trump at the 2016 Democratic National Convention: “New Yorkers know a con when we see one.” And he remains confident that he could beat Trump in a general election.
But, he admits, “I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field.”
At the same time, Bloomberg points out that many of America’s most pressing problems can’t wait until 2021 — particularly climate change. “Mother Nature does not wait on our political calendar, and neither can we,” he emphasizes in the statement.
He has spent more than $100 million in the past decade on the Sierra Club’s remarkably successful Beyond Coal campaign, which has helped close over half the country’s coal plants plants — 285 out of 530 — and deployed cleaner, cheaper energy in their place.
This effort, Bloomberg notes, “was the single biggest reason the U.S. has been able to reduce its carbon footprint by 11 percent — and cut deaths from coal power plants from 13,000 to 3,000.”
The former New York City mayor said Tuesday that he will build upon those successes by investing even more in the effort to shut down coal-fired power plants. “First, I will expand my support for the Beyond Coal campaign so that we can retire every single coal-fired power plant over the next 11 years,” he says in the statement. “That’s not a pipe dream. We can do it.”
But then he went much further, announcing “a new, even more ambitious phase of the campaign — Beyond Carbon: a grassroots effort to begin moving America as quickly as possible away from oil and gas and toward a 100 percent clean energy economy.”
An economy entirely powered by clean energy is the exact same goal laid out in the sweeping Green New Deal that has captured the nation’s attention over the past few months. Bloomberg points out that while any such deal “stands no chance of passage in the Senate over the next two years,” the science makes clear action must start now.
Indeed, the world’s nations unanimously approved a landmark report from scientists last October making clear that to have any plausible chance of averting catastrophic climate change, we must make sharp reductions in global carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 — and then quickly go to zero emissions.
Bloomberg’s targeted effort with clear goals stands in sharp contrast to most of the actual 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, who have offered little more than vague support for a Green New Deal.
So, notwithstanding the major media’s coverage, the big story from Bloomberg’s Tuesday announcement was not his decision to stay out of the presidential race. It was that a man worth $55 billion and a track record of helping to shut down half the country’s coal plants has just committed to shutting down the rest by 2030, and then taking the country off fossil fuels entirely.