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Mining People Magazine

by Thomas Pyle, President, Institute

for Energy Research (IER)


IER: Exposing the Financial Web Behind the Anti-coal Movement

o say that the Keep It In The

Ground (KIITG) movement has

created some hard years for coal

would be an understatement.

By distorting the truth in an ex-

pansive, multi-year campaign, they con-

vinced the American public that coal was

dirty and the energy of the past. Despite

being the most reliable, abundant and

cheapest energy source, they convinced

enough people and politicians that sound

alternatives and breakthrough technol-

ogy were right around the corner. If that

sounds deceitful, it’s because it is. It’s

simple, and it worked.

The green left was successful in using

this strategy to close mines, shut down

power plants, and sway public opinion to-

wards alternatives. The result, coal lost

its throne as king of America’s energy

market share.

What’s not so simple is unraveling the

hundreds of millions of dollars and who

is behind such a deceitful effort. Who is

behind the KIITG movement? Who is or-

ganizing and paying for these massive,

weeks or months-long protests?

It turns out it’s a massive web of large

foundations many of which made their

money from the very same fuel sources

they protest today. They have headquar-

ters in places like Manhattan and San

Francisco. Many of these are innocu-

ously named after titans of industry and

business, and many of them carry those

same people’s fortunes, but use them in

direct opposition to the things their found-

er accomplished in their lifetime. Others

are simply the outlets of prominent pro-

gressives with money to burn. These

large foundations underpin the Sierra

Club and Earth Justice and the hundreds

of other organizations working to under-

mine American energy.

And its time people know this truth.

At the Institute for Energy Research, we

have been busy building our publicly

available database that uses tax filings to

follows this web of deceit and the money

behind it. We call it Big Green Inc. Why?

Because once you look at the financial

figures being tossed around, you’ll quick-

ly realize the “green” these groups are

after – and it isn’t the environment.

From 2007-2017, we have tracked $5.2

billion of spending on anti-energy efforts

including millions in “grants” to fund anti-

coal efforts.

Take the Bloomberg Family Foundation

for example – yes, the very same entity

founded by New York City mayor and

failed Democratic presidential nominee

Michael Bloomberg who made his for-

tune building and selling a platform for

trading commodities like oil, gas and

coal on Wall Street. From 2011 to 2017,

the Bloomberg Foundation made ten

grants specifically for anti-coal projects.

In total, these ten grants amounted to

$67,850,000 with the lion’s share of

funds going to the Sierra Club’s anti-coal

efforts, “[t]o encourage the use of clean

energy and the reduction of coal depen-

dency in the U.S.” More than $5 million

in grants were also made to the Energy

Foundation, “[t]o support the coordina-

tion and expansion of the Beyond Coal


The Energy Foundation then turned

around and made 276 anti-coal grants

during that period. These grants totaled

$33,839,696, and went to 86 different

organizations including the Natural Re-

sources Defense Council, the Sierra Club

Foundation, and Earthjustice. Among

the Earthjustice grants were two grants

“To prevent the development of new coal-

fired power plants and accelerate the

retirement of existing coal-fired power

plants” which totalled $550,000. It also

made a litany of smaller donations to do

things like “oppose new coal-fired power

plants in Alaska”, and “oppose new coal-

fired power plants in Arkansas”, ditto

Michigan, ditto Texas, ditto Pennsylvania,

ditto Georgia, ditto Iowa, ditto Kentucky,

ditto Ohio. Hundreds of thousands of dol-

lars in grants spread around the country

trying to create a de-facto moratorium

on new coal. First they work insidiously

to prevent new construction and opera-

tion of coal plants, and then they’ll use

the lack of new construction as justifica-

tion unto itself that no new construction

is necessary at all, citing a lack of public

will, or a lack of money behind projects

when the truth is that they’ve erected so

many legal roadblocks that the cost to

build becomes too high.

The money that underpins these founda-

tions intertwines, and moves around, but

the end result is always the same, proj-

ects that obstruct development and seek

to ensure that Americans have less ac-

cess to reliable and affordable energy.

When no one pays attention to what

these organizations are doing or oppos-

es them, they win. And The Bloomberg

Family Foundation, The Sierra Club, and

The Energy Foundation are far from the

only big players in this web.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur

Foundation spent $19,293,000 on anti-

coal projects from 2009 to 2017. The Wil-

liam and Flora Hewlett Foundation spent

$12,918,000 from 2010 to 2017, and The

Heinz Endowments spent $5,477,000

from 2008 to 2017.

This kind of money put in the right places

can erect massive government barriers,

sway public opinion, and shift the eco-

nomic realities of an industry. It is more

important than ever to “know thine en-

emy”. Only those efforts that are well

tracked and understood can be readily

opposed. Through our Big Green, Inc.

project, the Institute for Energy Research

hopes to continue to shed light on the

machinations of these organizations, and

in so doing make them easier to oppose.

Thomas J. Pyle is president at the Insti-

tute for Energy Research, a non-profit

energy policy think tank.

From 2007-2017, we have tracked $5.2 billion of

spending on anti-energy efforts including

millions in “grants” to fund anti-coal efforts.