The field of Democrats looking to beat President Donald Trump this year are largely aligned in their pledge to rejoin the voluntary Paris Climate agreement to cut emissions. Most candidates want to end new fossil-fuel leasing on public lands and several are critical of the fracking process to extract oil.
The climate-fix aspirations of billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could be on display Wednesday night as he joins other top-polling contenders on the debate stage in Nevada. His backing of fracking, although with improvements, and nuclear sources to expand the U.S. climb toward energy independence was revealed in his “A Climate of Hope” book.
A few candidates have latched onto the Green New Deal, while others want to spur an American conversion to electric cars and high-speed rail. Widening the lens, the field’s environmental proposals reveal key differences in the details and cost, and not just when it comes to U.S. oil /zigman2/quotes/211629951/delayed CL.1 -0.48% , where to extract it and how to sell it.
The U.S., projected to drill at record-setting production levels over the next two years, nears toppling Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil exporter. But rather than get hung up on U.S. oil independence, the nation should be investing in alternative energy sources and hiring more Americans to work in these blooming industries, say candidates including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, among others.
“One area where candidates overwhelmingly agree [on climate] is ending new leases for fossil-fuel development on federal lands. Investors should take note because this is something that a president can do unilaterally, without congressional approval,” said James Lucier, who leads the energy, environmental and tax practices at Capital Alpha, in a note last fall.
Several in the 2020 field back a Green New Deal that has already been factoring into the election conversation, although some are adding their own features to the pact rolled out by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat of New York, and other members of Congress last year, a pact that met with some concern over cost and implementation. Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar all eventually signed onto the Green New Deal legislation, which has not found traction in a divided Congress. Bloomberg has called it a non-starter.
A few candidates promote an explicit carbon price — a cost applied to carbon pollution to encourage polluters to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit into the atmosphere. A majority of candidates are at least open to debating a carbon price, noted Lucier. Most candidates are choosing emissions targets instead as a means of stopping ozone depletion.
Some candidates were careful to swing the mid-January debate back to climate issues even when the topic wasn’t specifically highlighted. Biden, for instance, said during the debate he would not sign trade deals as president without environmentalists and labor representation at the negotiating table.
But any candidate avoiding the climate topic would be doing so at their own risk. According to the Yale Program for Climate Change Communication, a record 69% of voting-age Americans say they are worried about climate change . Almost one third say they are “very worried,” the highest percentage ever recorded.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the climate proposals from the current field .
Joe Biden: The Obama administration’s vice president has faced a chorus of concern from progressives that he won’t go far enough on thwarting man-made climate change. But the veteran politician does have a green plan. Biden wants 100% clean energy and net-zero emissions by 2050, he says, and he’ll work with other major international carbon-emitting nations to create enforceable pacts. He’ll advance a $1.7 trillion federal investment and $5 trillion in proposed public-private spending on climate initiatives.