Meet Billionaire Tom Steyer: Taking Aim at the Keystone Pipeline

If the Keystone Pipeline were ever completed, it would run from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to the refineries of the Texas coast. However, completion has been postponed several times due to concern about the tremendous environmental impact the pipeline would likely have. Now billionaire Tom Steyer is joining the numerous groups and individuals that oppose the oil transportation system. In the fall of 2013, Steyer began a $1 million ad campaign against the Keystone Pipeline.

Tom Steyer (see IP's profile of Steyer) is worth an estimated $1.4 billion, and in recent years he has become quite the climate change activist. He cofounded the organization Next Generation to find solutions to climate change problems, and he is a cochair of the Risky Business Initiative, a group assessing the risks of climate change.

In September 2013, Steyer began a series of ads attacking the Keystone XL Pipeline. The ads (which can be found on YouTube) question the proposed economic benefits of the system, while also pointing out the great risks posed by the pipeline. Supporters of the pipeline tout the thousands of jobs that would be created by its construction. However, Steyer cites a State Department review noting that only 35 permanent jobs would be created once the pipeline is in place.

If the pipeline poses little economic benefit, then perhaps the environmental issues should weigh more heavily on everyone's mind. In one ad, Steyer emphasizes the likelihood of oil spills, an issue many environmentalists are worried about. The pipeline would transport roughly 800,000 barrels of oil per day through fragile habitats and communities. Keystone XL would, for example, cross the sensitive large wetland ecosystems in Nebraska, which are critical to drinking water supplies and agriculture. The pipeline would also cross active seismic zones, making earthquakes and oil spills a distinct possibility. There is also the issue of investing in dirty energy supplies such as oil sands instead of investing in renewables.

Opponents of the Keystone Pipeline have found a powerful ally in Steyer. This billionaire turned climate change activist has the funding, connections, and will to make a real difference in the climate change debate. Here's hoping people are listening.