Despite being known for backing left-wing groups generally opposed to fossil fuels, billionaire investor George Soros invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a major coal and natural gas producer.
SNL Energy reports that Soros “opened a new equity stake in coal and gas producer CONSOL Energy Inc., purchasing about 5.1 million shares of the company in the second quarter valued at $234.4 million.” SNL notes that Soros has no other holdings in coal companies in June 30th filings — which could have changed since then.
Consol Energy is one of the largest independent natural gas companies in the U.S. that also operates coal mines in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia. Soros actually bought a small stake in the company early last year, which he later sold off.
Soros’s Consol holdings seem to go against his funding of left-wing organizations, including environmental groups that generally oppose hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas and coal mining. Consol is active in fracking.
Consol recently made headlines after announcing it would begin fracking near the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania airport this month. But the drilling near the airport is expected to bring in half a billion dollars which will help the airport pay off its debts.
Soros is known for being a big-monied donor behind many liberal and environmental organizations, including the Alliance for Climate Protection, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The Al Gore-funded Alliance for Climate Protection, which is now merged with the Climate Reality Project, is an active campaigner against fossil fuels and hosts a 24-hour climate special featuring celebrities every year.
The Climate Reality Project (CRP) has celebrated environmentalists Jonathan Deal and Ikal Angelei and featured them and others at their “Climate Reality Leadership Corps training” events for this year. Deal and Angelei were both honored by the environmental community for “their respective work against fracking in South Africa and fighting plans for a destructive dam in Kenya,” according to CRP.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists both have warned that fracking can contaminate drinking water and harm air quality. And both of these groups have supported federal regulations to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other rules that would force coal-fired power plants to retire.
“Fracking is a suspect in polluted drinking water in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, where residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations,” according to NRDC’s website. “NRDC opposes expanded fracking until effective safeguards are in place.”
More interestingly, the Soros-founded Open Society Foundation released a documentary last year called the “High Cost of Cheap Gas” which focuses on energy companies fracking for oil and natural gas in southern Africa.
The film claims to have “uncovered incontrovertible evidence that drilling and fracking are underway in Botswana and that international companies are planning massive gas operations in the future.”
“While activists have been campaigning against the extraction of shale gas and coal bed methane for years, the film documents alarming new evidence from the United States, exposing the damage these industries can inflict on human and animal health, and the environment,” the film description reads.
“Structural problems with the entire production process mean that ‘unconventional’ natural gas like this can end up being ‘dirtier’ than coal—contributing even more to greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change,” the film description adds.
Soros’s investment in Consol also comes as the company is beginning to focus more on growing the natural gas side of the business. SNL notes that in “late 2013, it sold off five thermal coal properties in West Virginia in order to focus on the growth of its gas business.”
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