Mike Bloomberg Enters Presidential Race
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has entered the crowded 2020 Democratic primary, the billionaire announced Sunday. But despite Bloomberg's record of fighting the climate crisis on the national and international stage, environmental activists expressed concern over his decision to enter the race, InsideClimate News reported.
"I'm running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America," Bloomberg said in the statement that launched his campaign. "We cannot afford four more years of President Trump's reckless and unethical actions. He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage."
He listed the climate crisis as one of the problems he would seek to tackle as president and said he would outline a plan for "fighting climate change" over the course of his campaign.
His website also touted his record on climate, including his successful work with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, which has retired almost 300 U.S. coal plants, and his America's Pledge initiative with former California Gov. Jerry Brown, to organize cities, states and businesses to meet the U.S. Paris agreement pledge, despite Trump's decision to withdraw.
He also reduced New York City's carbon footprint by 14 percent as mayor and serves as the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Climate Action, according to his website.
"As president, Mike will ensure the federal government leads an ambitious agenda to accelerate the U.S. toward a clean energy economy," his campaign promised.
But environmental activists are expressing concerns. In addition to there already being too many candidates vying to defeat President Donald Trump, there's specific concern that the centrist, pro-business Bloomberg is out of step with the social justice orientation of the current climate movement as exemplified by the Green New Deal.
With Bloomberg joining the presidential race, which already includes billionaire Tom Steyer addressing climate change as a top issue in his own campaign, there's a sense that climate issues are moving away from the grassroots movement that elevated it as a priority.
"[His run] creates the perception that only rich white people care about climate, and we have been working so hard to overcome that assumption by bringing climate justice front and center with the Green New Deal," RL Miller, political director of the advocacy group Climate Hawks Vote, told InsideClimate News.
Bloomberg's campaign strategy immediately raised criticism about income inequality. The campaign launched with the largest ad buy in primary history, reserving more than $30 million worth of TV ads, The Guardian reported. Bloomberg is making up for his late entry by opting out of the first four states in the primary calendar and focusing on the Super Tuesday states in March. One of the richest men in the world, he is also entirely self-funding his run, which means he will not be able to participate in debates under current rules, which require a candidate to amass at least 10,000 individual donations.
"I'm disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections," Independent Vermont Senator and primary contender Bernie Sanders tweeted Saturday. "If you can't build grassroots support for your candidacy, you have no business running for president."
I’m disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political proces… https://t.co/4ei90KCFGQ— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1574461224.0
This matters for the climate movement, co-founder of the nonprofit Carbon Tax Center Charles Komanoff told InsideClimate News, because he sees taxing the extremely wealthy as an essential part of funding a transition to renewable energy while addressing income inequality.
While Komanaff acknowledges Bloomberg's climate efforts were bold in 2007 when Bloomberg led as New York City's mayor, InsideClimate News reported, Komanoff believes "the times call for a different kind of leadership."
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Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
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What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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