New York – Michael Bloomberg is many things: a former mayor of New York City, founder of a financial data company, a failed presidential candidate, and the eleventh richest man in the world.
Since leaving public office a decade ago, the 81-year-old Bloomberg has also become, perhaps, the world’s leading sponsor of climate change activism and a costly thorn in the side of the fossil fuel industry. The former mayor claims to have invested $500 million in an initiative to close gas and coal plants. This month, he said he plans to spend another $500 million on that effort.
The campaign against coal was highly successful. Coal is dirty and expensive, and Bloomberg’s money helped retire more than 70% of the coal-burning plants in the country, roughly 370 facilities, according to Sierra Club and other organizations.
Now, he’s pursuing a much tougher target: new petrochemical plants that make fertilizers, plastics, and packaging. This will be no easy task.
In recent years, coal has become an increasingly expensive and unprofitable way to generate electricity, making it easier to shut down plants. But plastics and chemicals do not face those economic headwinds. In fact, the oil industry sees these industries as its future as cars go electric and fossil fuel burning diminishes, and it is investing heavily.
While the new campaign, called Beyond Petrochemicals, has won some victories, the petrochemical industry is thriving and highly profitable, and plastics remain cheap and in high demand. Moreover, the industry is defending itself with its own counterattack strategy: Beyond Bloomberg.