Democrats quiet about carbon footprints
Sanders vows to offset emissions after outcry, but others say little
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