Capitol Alert

Al Gore pops in to West Sacramento

Al Gore speaks to CalSTRS board members on Feb. 6, 2015.
Al Gore speaks to CalSTRS board members on Feb. 6, 2015. The Sacramento Bee

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore visited CalSTRS headquarters in West Sacramento on Friday to update the fund’s leaders on global warming and promote his own business interests. He also side-stepped a looming fight over public coal investments.

With 150 onlookers crowded into the pension fund’s board room, Gore delivered a message that won him a Nobel Prize for environmental activism: Fossil-fuel consumption has worsened natural disasters, thrown fragile governments into turmoil and threatens civilization’s future. Oil and coal companies’ willingness to do much about it, Gore said, leaves him “less than impressed” because they are focused on short-term profits to the expense of all else.

Gore’s company, Generation Investment Management LLP, came up time and again during the 90-minute presentation. The New York- and London-based firm factors environmental sustainability into its investments because, Gore and partner David Blood said, it makes good business sense. Critics have blasted Gore for stoking global-warming fears and then profiting from it.

CalSTRS gave the firm $50 million to invest in 2007 and $300 million more than a year later. The account’s balance stood at $542 million at the end of 2014. CalSTRS has $188.8 billion in assets.

When Board member Betty Yee referenced a proposal to require public pension systems dump coal holdings, Gore demurred.

“That’s for you to decide,” he said. “I don’t want to complicate your lives. But we don’t think its an all or nothing proposition.”

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.