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It may be a squishy timeline on cutting fossil fuels for Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden, but a timeline at all for moving away from oil and gas is a factor in key swing states heading into the Nov. 3 election finale.
Biden said in the final debate he would “transition away from the oil industry.”
He has been pushing a $2 trillion plan to boost investment in what he says will be job-producing clean energy and he aims to eliminate all climate-damaging emissions from the U.S. economy by 2050. The plan has always implied that he would wean the U.S. off oil and gas to achieve such goals, foremost by limiting or cutting subsidies.
“Basically what he is saying is he is going to destroy the oil industry,” President Trump responded. “Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania? Oklahoma? Ohio?”
Biden told reporters after the debate he wasn’t talking about any kind of fossil fuel ban.
“We’re not getting rid of fossil fuels for a very long time,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
The Trump team has claimed throughout the campaign that Biden has pledged to ban fracking. Biden’s only stated position on the controversial drilling practice, which has created jobs and boosted U.S. energy independence /zigman2/quotes/209723049/delayed CL00 -0.13% but carries environmental risk, has been to say he does not favor new drilling on federal land. Most fracking operations are on private land.
Analysts have emphasized the wide differences in a head-to-head comparison of the candidates on climate change as the Nov. 3 election nears and as other major economies, including China, have advanced a climate-change blueprint that may leave the U.S. without its own proposal flat-footed on trade, security and more in the years to come.
Here’s a deeper look at the candidates’ records on climate change.
Wide gap on climate change . The topic had been expected to be missing from the lineup of questions planned for the first debate between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden even as California wildfires again kicked up, their severity pinned by most experts on droughts and other weather extremes. And as the private sector advances its own net-zero carbon plans absent federal leadership.
But during the first debate, moderator Chris Wallace pushed Trump on pulling the U.S. from the voluntary international Paris climate accord and his rollback of Obama-era environmental moves (some of the dropped regulations pre-date Obama).
“I want crystal clean water and air, we now have the lowest carbon … if you look at our numbers now we are doing phenomenally,” Trump replied. He called the Paris agreement a “disaster” and repeated yet again that the historic wildfires in the West in recent years are due to poor forest management. “The forest floor is loaded up with dead trees. You drop a cigarette in there the whole forest burns down,” he said. Just more than half of California forests are federally managed land.
“But sir, if you believe in the science of climate change, why have you rolled back the Obama Clean Power Plan, which limited carbon emissions in power plants?” Wallace pressed. “Because it was driving energy prices through the sky,” Trump answered. “Why have you relaxed fuel economy standards?” Wallace asked. “You’re talking about a tiny difference,” Trump said.
Most analysts said it was the longest public exchange on climate change they could remember Trump engaging in.
“For the first time, President Trump acknowledged that human activity has, at least in part, caused climate change,” the American Conservation Coalition, a conservative environment group, said in a statement.
Biden, for his part, used the debate time to push his $2 trillion green stimulus plan. “Nobody’s gonna build another coal-fired plant in America. They’re gonna move to renewable energy,” the former vice president said.
As was the tactic throughout the debate, the president jumped in as Biden spoke, challenging that the price of the climate-change proposal advanced by the Democrat was much higher and the plan more aligned to the Green New Deal advanced by the progressive arm of the party.
“Not true,” Biden replied.
Accepting the science: Describing the difference between the two candidates often starts with acceptance of the factors behind rising emissions, extreme temperatures and droughts, as well as swelling sea levels that threaten coastlines. While it’s true that the science is evolving, Trump had repeatedly called man-made climate change a “hoax” but has softened that language. He has said “science doesn’t know” what lies ahead.