Biden Commits to Banning Fossil Fuel Subsidies After DNC Dropped It
The Democratic party made the curious move of removing a ban on fossil fuel subsidies from its platform earlier this week as its convention kicked off. The move, which also backtracked from a clean energy commitment, raised the ire of environmental activists. However, presidential nominee Joe Biden, who will steer the party's agenda if elected, has recommitted to a ban on fossil fuel subsidies, as The Verge reported.
What happened was this: earlier this week HUFFPOST revealed that the amendment to the party's platform that was approved, "Democrats support eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuels, and will fight to defend and extend tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy," was not included the platform document that Democrats released on Monday.
That stoked the ire of activists who had been buoyed by the aggressive climate plan that Biden agreed to. Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, called the removal of the amendment, "immoral, criminal, inexcusable," as Common Dreams reported.
"We are nearing global tipping points on climate, fires and extreme weather are killing people and devastating the economy, and the DNC can't even accept an end to public subsidies for making it worse?" Leonard tweeted.
We are nearing global tipping points on climate,— Annie Leonard (@AnnieMLeonard) August 19, 2020
fires & extreme weather are killing people and devastating the economy and @DNC can’t even accept an end to public subsidies for making it worse? This is immoral, criminal, inexcusable. https://t.co/7UXxS6JneG
"This platform is a step backwards, and we deserve better," Charlie Jiang, a campaigner at Greenpeace, said in a statement, as HUFFPOST reported.
And yet, the public document of Biden-Harris campaign's climate agenda says it will end subsidies for fossil fuels. The Verge reached out to the campaign to get some clarity on the discrepancy between the campaign and the party's platform.
"Vice President Biden's commitment to ending fossil fuel subsidies remains as steadfast as it was when he outlined this position in the bold climate plan he laid out last year," Stef Feldman, policy director for the Biden campaign said in a statement to The Verge. "He will demand a worldwide ban on fossil fuel subsidies and lead the world by example, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies in the United States during the first year of his presidency."
The amount of money that the fossil fuel industry receives from the U.S. government is staggering, though the estimates vary widely, as Vox reported. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute estimates the number is around $20 billion a year, but the International Monetary Fund puts the number around $649 billion.
The decision to remove the language about subsidies from the party platform is still confounding as the party tries to bring more activists into its fold. Greta Thunberg tweeted her dismay at the decision, simply saying, "So, not even the very minimum…"
”The Democratic National Committee this week quietly dropped language calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks from its party platform”— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 19, 2020
So, not even the very very minimum...https://t.co/2h7A1bDmj9
Despite frustrating activists, the party's platform does call for an aggressive transition to renewable energy and to eliminating carbon emissions from power plants in 15 years. It also seeks net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings in 10 years with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, according to The New York Times.
However, it makes no mention of the Green New Deal, which is a strong rallying cry for the party's progressive wing.
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Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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