Will Tom Steyer Put His Mouth Where His Money Is?

Billionaire financier Tom Steyer is spending $50+ million of his money this election season to oppose the use of fossil fuels, which he equates to an heroin addiction.

Refreshingly, Steyer has called for open debate on fossil fuels and their impact on climate–which is one of the most important issues this country, and the world, faces. And he has offered to participate in a public debate himself, which takes courage.

Or does it? I’m not sure Steyer actually wants a debate, because he keeps challenging non-debaters who have every reason not to debate him. First he challenged Russ Girling, the CEO of TransCanada (creator of the Keystone XL project), whom Steyer’s organization, NextGeneration, has publicly smeared. Then he challenged the notoriously reclusive Koch Brothers, whom Next Generation has also publicly smeared.

Selecting highly-unlikely debating partners has enabled Steyer to claim that the opposition is afraid to debate him.

But I agree with Steyer. We need a debate over fossil fuels and climate.

Being perhaps the most experienced debater on this issue–I have debated Steyer’s climate mentorBill McKibben, as well as representatives of the Sierra Club and Greenpeace–I decided to offer my services to Steyer at one of his favorite hangouts: Twitter.

Steyer didn’t respond. But he has continued to post what I regard as very ill-informed statements about fossil fuels. I decided to try a different tack: rather than debate him, I’d try to convince him in advance, by offering him an early copy of my book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, which comes out in November. If he read it and still disagreed with me, we’d debate.

Still, no response.

Let’s be clear: Steyer is under no obligation to debate me in particular. But he is under obligation to debate someone on the other side who has expertise in the big-picture case for fossil fuels. And I’m more than happy to be that someone; I’ll debate Steyer for free, in any venue Steyer chooses.

So, will Tom Steyer put his mouth where his money is?

Encourage him (politely) to do so on Twitter. He’s @tomsteyer and I’m @alexepstein.