Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders released his policy platform on energy and climate Monday morning, calling for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, a path to 100 percent renewable energy, and an end to fossil fuel lobbying and tax breaks.
The plan hammers corporate interests and GOP legislators that have sewn climate change denial among the American public, and sets out to “reclaim our democracy from the billionaire fossil fuel lobby.”
“It is an embarrassment that Republican politicians, with few exceptions, refuse to even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone are prepared to do anything about it,” Sanders’ plan states.
To reduce fossil fuel development, a Sanders presidency would ban offshore and Arctic drilling, mountaintop removal coal mining, and exports of oil and natural gas. In addition, revenue from a carbon tax would be used to reduce the cost impact on households and investing in at-risk communities.
Environmental groups were quick to praise the plan, largely agreeing that corporate interests are a major hurdle to effective carbon reductions.
“The climate plan released by Senator Bernie Sanders today shows that he has broken free of the corporate and 1 percent money that has held back climate policy for far too long,” Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard said in a statement.
The plan also ties climate change to social justice, noting the out-sized impact climate change has on low-income and minority communities.
Sanders has focused on getting money out of politics and decreasing income disparity in the United States, tying nearly every political issue to financial inequality. In the climate plan, he links Citizens United to climate change, saying the Supreme Court decision led to “legalized bribery” and criticizing Congress’ inaction on the issue.
“It is immoral that some in Congress advocate harsh cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security while those same people vote to preserve billions in tax breaks for the most profitable corporations in America,” the plan states.
“We are going to have to stand up to the fossil fuel industry,” Sanders said in a video from November, when he cosponsored a bill that would ban fossil fuel extraction on public lands.
The fossil fuel industry does have a close relationship with Washington. Oil and gas companies enjoy a number of tax breaks that result in the industry paying some of the lowest real tax rates in America. The coal industry also receives federal benefits, including low royalty rates on coal mined on federal land.
To show how the country could move towards a carbon-free future, the Sanders campaign website is now hosting an interactive map of the United States that shows how every state could move to 100 percent renewable electricity, based on research from Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program.
Fellow Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have also released energy and climate plans. Both the Sanders and the O’Malley plans go further than Clinton’s, including carbon pricing and and end to fossil fuel use.
Sanders has previously tied climate change to international terrorism, calling climate change “the biggest national security threat facing the United States.”