For almost the entire time Barack Obama has been president there have been relatively obvious examples of correlation, if not causation, between the president’s major donors and rather peculiar economic policy decisions.
Particularly as they affect the energy industry. After all, there were lots of complaints when Obama imposed a drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP spill in contravention of advice from the nation’s best engineers, and his doing so drove away a number of drilling platforms overseas – some of which went to Brazil in service of Petrobras, which at the time had George Soros as its top private shareholder.
Soros was rumored as the driving force behind the Obama administration’s various attempts to regulate fracking and its delays in approving natural gas export terminals, thanks to his investments in the energy sector in Russia and the Russians’ desire to (1) keep American natural gas from flowing to its captive customers in Western Europe and (2) dissuade France, Germany and the UK from developing their own fracking industries and becoming more energy-sufficient.
Warren Buffet’s name has been linked to the ongoing refusal to permit the Keystone XL pipeline, as his Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad is able to charge whatever price it wants to transport oil from the Canadian tar sands and the Bakken field in North Dakota and Montana to oil refineries in Texas and Louisiana currently without a pipeline to compete for the business. It’s interesting that the competition between rail and pipelines for oil transport is still going strong and corrupting the political class nearly 150 years after John Rockefeller first built an oil pipeline from the oilfields of western Pennsylvania to his Standard Oil refineries in Cleveland in order to break the hold the railroads had on transporting his oil.
The connections between Obama donors and the giveaways to the solar and wind industries are too numerous to mention – all anyone needs to say is “Solyndra” and people recognize the presence of bought policy in the Obama administration.
Billionaire investor George Soros, who has demonized fossil fuels for years through his think tanks and political contributions, seems to have warmed up to Big Coal now that stocks are dirt cheap.
The left-wing hedge fund legend has raised eyebrows with major purchases of stock in two large coal companies, firms his critics say he helped bring to their knees. While buying low is the hallmark of any shrewd investor, buying coal goes against the political and environmental ideology Soros has long espoused.
“I find it very interesting that George Soros would buy shares in those coal companies,” said Daniel Simmons, vice president for Policy at the Washington DC-based free market energy group, Institute for Energy Research. “I am confused given the non profits he funds and how hard they have worked to demonize coal.”
Soros, whose Climate Policy Initiative think tank recently urged the world to stop using fossil fuels in general and coal in particular, snapped up 1 million shares of Peabody Energy and half a million shares of Arch Coal, giving him significant stakes in what’s left of the U.S. coal industry.
The trades would have cost Soros a lot more six years ago, when Peabody, which trades under the symbol BTU, was at about $90 a share. Under the Obama administration, which has punished the coal industry with costly mandates and regulation, Peabody shares have fallen to around $1.
Neither Soros nor his New York-based investment firm, Soros Fund Management, would comment on the coal play, citing a longstanding policy of not discussing investments.
The 85-year-old hedge fund manager has a net worth of $24.2 billion, according to Forbes.com, which makes him the 19th wealthiest person in U.S. and second among hedge fund managers.
The most recent filing shows Soros Fund Management holds stakes in 263 companies with a total value of nearly $11 billion.
The filing shows the purchases of 553,200 shares of Arch Coal for $188,000 and an investment of $2,254,000 into Peabody Energy for 1,029,400 shares, which means he’s lost money on both so far. Peabody, the biggest coal producer in the U.S. by output, said in a recent statement that it “has been trying to turn itself around as it faces challenges from low natural-gas prices, a glut of global coal supplies, weakened demand from China and a growing public call to cut carbon emissions.”
A fraternity brother of mine who worked at a hedge fund confessed to me he’d supported Obama in 2008 despite being as hard-core a conservative Republican imaginable. Part of his support, he said, was that John McCain was unsupportable as the Republican nominee, but another part of that was purely business. He figured the country was screwed either way, but with a Democrat in office making money as an investor was easier.
“Republicans are usually trying to let the market work its way,” he told me, “though they’re not always good at it. With a Republican in the White House you have to do an enormous amount of work analyzing industries and the market forces affecting them. And your analysis can be wrong – and very costly.
“But with Democrats, it’s a lot easier. The way they meddle in the economy all you have to do is watch what the government does, and then just invest in the people who’ll win as a result. You can be lazy as hell and make a fortune. Over time, the companies who benefit from the free stuff from the government will ultimately go bad and lose money, but if you time it right you can get out with a healthy profit just by jumping in when the politicians decide to pump them up.”
That’s one reason why Wall Street and the big-money fatcats are perfectly happy to have Democrats in control. True capitalism requires brains and work ethic. Crony capitalism simply requires connections and access. It’s easier, as Soros, Buffet and the rest of the titans have proven over the past several years.