Democrats quiet about car­bon foot­prints

San­ders vows to off­set emis­sions af­ter out­cry, but oth­ers say lit­tle

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Crit­ics slammed Sen. Bernard San­ders last year af­ter he flew on a pri­vate jet to cam­paign dur­ing the midterm elec­tions.

He promised to make things right by off­set­ting those emis­sions, and his cam­paign shelled out more than $5,000 to a lead­ing off­set provider.

On Thurs­day, Mr. San­ders said he’ll keep go­ing, pledg­ing to off­set his car­bon emis­sions for his 2020 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

“Bernie San­ders is a cham­pion in the fight for cli­mate jus­tice and, like him, we know we need to ad­dress our emis­sions through ac­tion, not just rhetoric,” said San­ders cam­paign man­ager Faiz Shakir. “We are proud to lead the way in the fight against cli­mate change.” For Mr. San­ders, it is par for the course. His 2016 pres­i­den­tial op­er­a­tion also paid to cover for his emis­sions, pay­ing more than $14,000 to Na­tive En­ergy, his pre­ferred off­set com­pany.

But the other 2020 Demo­cratic hope­fuls, who like Mr. San­ders call global warm­ing an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis, have been slower to put their money where their mouth is.

Af­ter in­quiries from The Wash­ing­ton Times, only one — the cam­paign of South Bend Mayor Pete But­tigieg — said it would con­sider proac­tive steps to make up for the dirty busi­ness, car­bon-speak­ing, of a cam­paign.

“He’s pledged not to take con­tri­bu­tions from the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try and we’re look­ing into ways to re­duce the car­bon foot­print,” said But­tigieg spokes­woman Lis Smith.

Ev­ery other cam­paign con­tacted by The Times ig­nored the in­quiries, mak­ing it any­one’s guess how se­ri­ously they will take their emis­sions.

Even Wash­ing­ton Gov. Jay Inslee, who is mak­ing cli­mate change the cen­ter­piece of his cam­paign, wouldn’t say whether he will off­set his car­bon.

Car­bon off­sets are projects such as plant­ing trees to suck car­bon from the at­mos­phere, con­vert­ing dirty power sources to cleaner ones, or cap­tur­ing meth­ane emis­sions from land­fills.

Com­pa­nies seek pay­ments from those spew­ing car­bon, promis­ing to use the money to fund off­set projects.

Na­tive En­ergy, the com­pany Mr. San­ders uses, says it can off­set the half-ton of car­bon emis­sions from 1,000 miles of short-haul air­plane travel for $8.55.

Off­sets were the rage a decade ago, with sev­eral high-pro­file pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns promis­ing to pay for their emis­sions dur­ing the 2008 race, in­clud­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton and John Ed­wards.

Com­bined, fed­eral cam­paigns in 2008 paid ma­jor off­set providers, in­clud­ing Na­tive En­ergy and Cli­mate Trust, a to­tal of $230,917, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral records.

In the 2012 pres­i­den­tial cy­cle, when there was no Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial pri­mary race, ex­pen­di­tures on car­bon off­sets ran slightly more than $2,000.

The pay­ments to ma­jor off­set com­pa­nies in­creased in the 2016 cy­cle but at $14,347 re­mained dra­mat­i­cally be­low the 2008 level.

Af­ter be­ing spot­ted fly­ing a pri­vate jet to cam­paign events in 2016, Mrs. Clin­ton promised to off­set her emis­sions, but no record of pay­ments can be found. Her cam­paign re­peat­edly ig­nored ques­tions about the fail­ure in 2016.

Iron­i­cally, the Clin­ton Global Ini­tia­tive has funded a car­bon off­set op­er­a­tion.

Only Mr. San­ders and fel­low Ver­mon­ter Rep. Pe­ter Welch con­sis­tently make large ex­pen­di­tures on car­bon off­sets.

The lack of per­sonal ac­tion has not stopped other can­di­dates from com­plain­ing about the loom­ing catas­tro­phe.

“Cli­mate change is the most se­ri­ous threat to hu­man­ity to­day, and we need im­me­di­ate and bold ac­tion to ad­dress it,” said Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand of New York.

For­mer Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas said Amer­i­cans have a “fi­nal chance” to act or face a cli­mate apoc­a­lypse in 12 years.

Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mass­a­chu­setts pro­posed re­build­ing all of the coun­try’s in­fra­struc­ture in a way that deals with cli­mate change.

“The ur­gency of the mo­ment on cli­mate change can­not be over­stated. It’s upon us and we need to make a change and make change fast. And that means in part re­build­ing our power grids, our en­tire in­fra­struc­ture sys­tem. We need to harden against the com­ing storms. Un­der­passes and over­passes and bridges. We need a 21st-cen­tury in­fra­struc­ture that ac­counts for com­ing changes in cli­mate, and we need it fast,” she told Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio.

Mr. Inslee called for an “all-out na­tional cli­mate mo­bi­liza­tion” to de­feat cli­mate change.

“Sounds like most Demo­cratic can­di­dates want to talk the talk of the Green New Deal, but no one is ready to walk the walk,” said Michael McKenna, an en­ergy lob­by­ist and Re­pub­li­can Party strate­gist.

“Sounds like most Demo­cratic can­di­dates want to talk the talk of the Green New Deal, but no one is ready to walk the walk.” — Michael McKenna, en­ergy lob­by­ist and Re­pub­li­can Party strate­gist

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