RBC I One of America’s most respected environmental non-profit organizations has traded in one kind of green for another. Some of the Sierra Club’s board members and most important donors have put the almighty dollar before Mother Earth by encouraging the organization to engage in activities that bolster their bottom line.
In a new report, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute reveals that many environmental activists benefit richly from their donations to the Sierra Club.
Nathaniel Simons, a hedge fund baron worth an estimated $12 billion, has donated more than $14 million to the Sierra Club since 2009.
Those contributions have largely been earmarked for campaigns to “educate the public about clean energy,” but they have proven quite worthwhile to Simons. While he was underwriting the Sierra Club’s efforts to promote renewables, Simons was quietly creating a venture fund that invests in clean energy.
The co-founder of Applied Energy Services, Roger Sant, has donated up to $4 million to the Sierra Club.
Sant, the chairman emeritus of the renewable energy company, is an outspoken advocate for a carbon dioxide emission tax. That’s because such a policy would mean millions of dollars for Sant and other Applied Energy Services investors.
Few organizations have championed a carbon tax more fervently than the Sierra Club. Those efforts have undeniably been bolstered by Sant’s contributions.
This isn’t the first example of conflicts of interest between the Sierra Club and its directors.
The Sierra Club’s well-known “Beyond Coal” campaign has been largely discredited because the campaign appears to be paid for by board members and other donors who benefit financially from the organization’s anti-fossil fuel crusades.
Eight of the Sierra Club Foundation’s 18 directors are involved with organizations that profit from the Beyond Coal campaign.
Those directors are owners, founders and CEOs of renewable energy companies and investment firms who donated millions to the Sierra Club’s war on fossil fuels. These green energy tycoons knew lambasting coal, oil and natural gas would increase demand for renewables like solar and wind and generate more money for their businesses.
Companies with top executives on the Sierra Club’s board of directors include solar firms such as SolarCity, Sun Run and the Solaria Corporation as well as the green energy investment funds at Barclays, Walden Capital and Boston Common Asset Management.
For those eight board members, earnings, not the environment, appear to motivate their involvement with the Sierra Club.
The organization’s largest donor and—the funder behind much of the Beyond Coal campaign—may have the biggest investment of anyone in strangling America’s cheap and stable conventional energy market.
That man, David Gelbaum, has spread $500 million amongst more than 40 green energy companies, all of which benefit from the Sierra Club’s attack on fossil fuels.
For Gelbaum, his $100 million donation to the Sierra Club is a way to vilify his competition and entice people to accept his expensive green energy schemes.
Obviously, today’s Sierra Club, which now operates as a political lobbying firm focused on enriching its donors, is a far cry from what naturalist John Muir had in mind when he created the organization in 1892.
As Energy & Environment Legal Institute’s Legal Executive Director Craig Richardson points out, the Sierra Club’s war on fossil fuels is “an effort that clearly benefits the very same people who are donating the money. It’s clear the Sierra Club is now just a mercenary force beholden to the highest bidder.”
Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and a columnist at The Washington Times.