Bloomberg Pledges $500 Million to Shut US Coal Plants by 2030

The new Beyond Carbon initiate was announced during an MIT commencement address

(Dominick Reuter)

Many countries, including 15 from the European Union, are actively working to phase out their coal-fired power plants and replace them with clean, green, renewable energy. In the US, half of the aging plants have been closed, but many remain and continue to contribute to climate change.  

Former New York City mayor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg wants to close all of the remaining plants in the US and he is putting his money where his mouth is.

Addressing the Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral ceremony and commencement on June 6, 2019, Bloomberg announced a $500 million pledge – the largest philanthropic effort to date –  to combat climate change in a program called Beyond Carbon as part of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The new initiative will have four components, according to an MIT press release. Bloomberg said that first, he would work with states and utilities to close, "every last US coal-fired power plant by 2030…we're already more than halfway there." He was referring to the 289 coal-fired plants that closed since 2011 (including 51 that closed after the 2016 election) through a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sierra Club.

In places where coal jobs are being lost, Beyond Carbon will support local organizations to retrain workers for growing industries and spur economic growth. This is vitally important for areas like the Appalachians where the loss of coal jobs, mostly due to automation and not power plant closures, has caused severe economic distress.

The second component is to stop construction of new gas plants because they will already be outdated before they are completed, and renewable energy is actually cheaper now than natural gas. “We don’t want to replace one fossil fuel with another. We want to build a clean energy economy — and we will push more states to do that,” he said.

Third, the former mayor said, is to support our most powerful allies: the governors, mayors, and legislators who are pursuing policies and laws to combat climate change. They will bypass the federal level and work with states, local governments, and grassroots organizations.

And finally, because battling climate change is a political and not a scientific question or technical puzzle, the initiative will be politically engaged in elections across the country to make sure the candidates work towards fixing the environment.

Bloomberg linked the new initiative to the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing which was actually possible because it used a guidance system developed at MIT, and said his aim for a total shift away from fossil fuels to clean energy, “as expeditiously as possible” amounts to a new moon shot for today's generation.

“The challenge that lies before you — stopping climate change — is unlike any other ever faced by humankind,” Bloomberg told the graduates, “The stakes could not be higher.”

Bloomberg has been a supporter of gun control since his tenure as NYC mayor and has worked on the state level by giving contributions to candidates who back stricter gun control. He gave over a $1 million to Everytown for Gun Safety.

He is also a major supporter of education and in 2018, donated $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater, to provide financial aid for poor students. Education is a great leveler and a path out of poverty.

Bloomberg has given over $6.4 billion over his lifetime through Bloomberg Philanthropies which focuses on the arts, education, environment, government innovation, and public health, it is the 12th largest foundation in the US.

At the end of the speech, Bloomberg charged the graduates, “So now, go out there. Join the world. Find your calling. Solve the unsolvable. Invent the future. Take the high road. Shoot for the moon!”

It is very likely that the MIT graduates will use their talents to join the effort to combat climate change by inventing the new green technologies in addition to leading the grassroots organizations and local governments that will push to implement them. The youth will be the ones to save our planet.

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