Tom Steyer Endorses Planet-Killing Fuel Mandate

Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer / AP

Billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer is attacking a Republican Senate candidate by claiming that she is opposed to a policy that environmentalists say is destructive to the earth’s climate.

Steyer himself has criticized the use of the biofuel ethanol. But in an effort to elect Senate Democrats, he is attacking Iowa hopeful Joni Ernst for supposedly opposing an ethanol mandate.

Ernst says she has taken no such position, National Journal noted on Tuesday.

More revealing than yet another dishonest attack ad from NextGen Climate Action, Steyer’s personal Super PAC, is the fact that the nation’s most prominent political environmentalist is backing a policy that environmentalists routinely criticize.

NextGen is trumpeting a policy that some environmentalists say is bad for the planet.

Assessing the overall, or "lifecycle," climate footprint of growing and transforming crops into fuel and then burning them is tricky. But ethanol's critics like Friends of the Earth and the Environmental Working Group believe traditional corn-based ethanol—which is a substantial share of the mandate—is actually worse for the climate than gasoline when its total lifecycle greenhouse-gas emissions are considered.

But while Steyer spoke critically of ethanol in a 2010 interview with Fortune, on Tuesday his NextGen Climate group praised the RFS. "The Renewable Fuel Standard is an important program that will help transform our carbon intensive oil-dependent transportation sector and increase the development and deployment of biofuels. The RFS supports 73,000 good-paying, clean energy jobs in Iowa and is helping us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels," NextGen said.

Steyer’s critics have pointed to details of his political activities this year, such as his massive donations to a leading Democratic Super PAC, as evidence that he is a Democrat first and an environmentalist second.