Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday evening bragged about his philanthropic targeting of American coal-fired plants, closures which likely led to thousands of lost jobs.
Asked by debate moderator Jon Ralston about how he would stop the expansion of coal, Bloomberg began by touting his privately funded efforts to close coal-fired plants across the United States.
"Already we've closed 304 out of the 530 coal-fired power plants in the United States, and we've closed 80 out of the 200 or 300 that are in Europe, Bloomberg philanthropies working with the Sierra Club," Bloomberg said. "That's one of the things you do."
Bloomberg has put substantial money into such closures. His $150 million, four-year "Beyond Coal" campaign, operated primarily through the Sierra Club, is linked to the closure of 289 plants. In June, Bloomberg promised another $500 million to finish the job as part of the "Beyond Carbon" initiative.
The number of people a coal plant employs varies—three plants in Illinois shed 65 jobs a piece, the closure of one plant in Moffat County, Colo., resulted in 253 lost jobs, whereas two plants closing outside of Cincinnati cost roughly 350 jobs a piece. A conservative estimate of 65 jobs a plant suggests Bloomberg's closures cost almost 20,000 jobs over five years.
The coal mining industry and employment in coal-fired plants have both taken substantial hits in recent years. According to the most recent data from the Department of Energy, coal electric generation employed roughly 86,000 workers as of 2016, but demand for coal had been steadily declining, down 53 percent since 2006. Coal mine employment, after rising steadily through the Bush administration, declined substantially during the Obama administration. Under President Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency has tried to lighten the burden on the industry, moving to end the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, but the industry has yet to see a rebound.
Bloomberg's open hostility to coal is nonetheless likely to be an electoral liability should he make it to the general election. Pennsylvania, a swing state that handed Trump the Electoral College in 2016, is a major coal producer, turning out 45 million tons in 2016 alone.