Unlike his bridge buddy Warren Buffett, who recently canceled six planned coal projects, Bill Gates is still pushing coal. Cascade Investment Management, his personal investment company, is the largest stakeholder (9 percent) in Otter Tail Corporation, the lead sponsor of the controversial Big Stone II coal project.
Last week, eight Minnesota legislators, led by Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL) of Minneapolis and Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL) of St. Paul, wrote to Gates, asking him to visit Minnesota in order to investigate green investment opportunities that would “align the values of your foundation with your investment strategy.”
In April, NASA’s James Hansen appealed to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to oppose Big Stone II: “You can help inspire your state and the rest of the country to take the bold actions that are essential if we are to retain a hospitable climate.”
This is not the first time Gates investments have come under the ethical spotlight. In Feb. 2007, an L.A. Times article critiqued Gates Foundation investments. “In a contradiction between its grants and its endowment holdings,” wrote the Times, “the foundation reaps vast financial gains every year from investments that contravene its good works.”
Following the L.A. Times expose, the Gates Foundation promised that it would “formalize the process by which Bill and Melinda Gates analyze and review these issues.”
There are some indications that such reviews may indeed be starting to happen, at least within the Gates family’s own personal portfolio. Following outcries that the use of corn for producing ethanol was contributing to escalation of corn prices, food riots, and worsening hunger worldwide, Cascade Investment Management recently unloaded its stake in Pacific Ethanol.
So far, however, Gates has shown no sign of yielding to critics on Big Stone II.
Here are recent lists of Gates family philanthropic and personal holdings:
- Gates Foundation holdings (Feb. 2008)
- Cascade Investment Management holdings (May 2007)