Climate Progressives Push Biden From the Political Center
To some observers, Joe Biden’s climate proposal announced in New Hampshire on Tuesday is a rebuttal to previous reports that he would seek the “middle ground” on climate policy. Instead, Biden’s $5 trillion plan for tax hikes, tariffs, and government enforcement mechanisms is now the “middle ground” in the current climate debate inside a Democratic Party that has shifted well to the Left.
Progressives sense the momentum they’ve seized on the climate issue. Just hours after Biden released his plan, the activist group Sunrise Movement sent out an email taking credit for Biden’s decision to abandon his moderate stance on climate. “The Movement leads, Biden follows,” the email began.
“Last month, when Joe Biden’s advisers said he would find a ‘middle ground’ on climate policy, we made clear that was unacceptable.
“We sparked national outrage and this morning we saw that pay off: Biden put out a comprehensive climate plan that calls for a ‘Clean Energy Revolution’… Journalists are also now reporting that Joe Biden will sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge.”
Biden’s published policy is certainly more aggressive than his campaign rhetoric. Among other things, “The Biden Plan For A Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice” calls for:
- A 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050
- $1.7 trillion in new federal spending
- Tax hikes on businesses and corporations
- ‘Tariffs’ on foreign countries who don’t take sufficient action on climate
- Some form of “price or tax on carbon dioxide pollution” by 2025 to raise energy costs.
“In some ways, Mr. Biden’s plan goes even further than the Green New Deal,” according to the New York Times.
Not to be outdone, on the same day Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposed $2 trillion dollars in direct spending for her “Green Apollo Program” and “Green Marshall Plan.”
Meanwhile, former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) has called for $5 trillion over 10 years to combat climate change, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has a $9 trillion plan to cut emissions.
Environmental activists in New Hampshire certainly like what they’re seeing. ECHO Action NH has been pushing candidates at the state and national level to reject contributions from Big Oil. “Any candidate who is unwilling to extract themselves from their relationship with the fossil fuel industry will not meet our high level of expectations for climate action candidates,” Stephanie Scherr, the group’s executive director, tells NHJournal. “ECHO Action has been meeting with presidential candidates regularly. We have been pleased with our conversations with many candidates whose messages are in line with our own.”
Embracing Green New Deal politics promoted by groups like ECHO Action (Biden calls the GND “a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face”) may appeal to affluent, suburban liberals, but working-class Democrats are starting to pick up on the inevitable impact these policies would have on labor unions.
Which raises the question: Why?
Why has Biden, who has worked so hard and had so much success as the moderate alternative in the progressive-dominated 2020 field, allowed himself to be pushed so far left on climate policy?
Coming to New Hampshire to announce his proposal, for example, is problematic given the state already pays some of the highest energy prices in the country. A kilowatt of electricity is about 60 percent more expensive in the Granite State than the national average.
In addition, a recent NHJournal poll asked New Hampshire voters how much more in utility costs they are willing to pay to achieve climate policy goals. Almost half said they were unwilling to pay even a single penny more, while just 17 percent would pay $50 or more a month to fight global warming.
Is this really the issue where Biden should plant his far-Left flag?
John Podesta, founder of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, thinks so. His organization recently released a poll showing that climate change is a high-priority issue for Democratic primary voters. “[Our] polling demonstrates that voters will demand that the Democratic nominee make climate action a top priority and key pillar of her or his platform,” Podesta said.
Morning Consult polling April 2019
Perhaps. But Gallup has been polling Americans on their most important issues for years and in May 2019, just 4 percent of voters ranked it as number one. An April Morning Consult poll of Democratic primary voters found just 8 percent said climate policy was their highest priority.
Green energy proposals like Biden’s have high price tags, raise serious questions about their economic impact and threaten every homeowner with higher energy bills. In exchange, they motive what appears to be a small segment of the overall electorate, one that’s already solidly in the Democratic camp.
Biden may have let himself be pushed into a corner.