Beto faces ‘army’ over fossil fuel money

Source: Adam Aton, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, March 18, 2019

Beto O’Rourke spent his first day on the presidential campaign trail touting the Green New Deal, joining most other Democratic 2020 hopefuls in endorsing massive government intervention to lower emissions.

“Some will criticize the Green New Deal for being too bold or being unmanageable. I tell you what, I haven’t seen anything better that addresses this singular crisis we face, a crisis that could at its worst lead to extinction. The Green New Deal does that,” he said at a campaign stop in Iowa.

Of the 15 Democrats running for president so far, six have co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution, and at least four others have strongly praised it, including O’Rourke.

That’s a far cry from 2016, when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton refused to endorse a carbon tax (Climatewire, Jan. 3).

Climate activists are cautiously optimistic about the warm welcome, but they want the candidates to prove they’re serious by swearing off fossil fuel money.

The Sunrise Movement, the youth group that jump-started the Green New Deal with a sit-in at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office, is planning a similarly confrontational approach for this new litmus test.

The group is working to “train an army” of activists to push candidates to sign the pledge at campaign events, Sunrise spokesman Stephen O’Hanlon said.

That was how activists got Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to sign the pledge, he said.

Sunrise illustrated its carrot-and-stick approach yesterday with O’Rourke, a former El Paso, Texas, congressman who accepted more than $475,000 last election cycle from the oil and gas sector, the second-most in Congress.

“Watch these strong & powerful words on the #GreenNewDeal that @BetoORourke launched his campaign with,” Sunrise tweeted, sending O’Rourke’s message to its 78,000 followers.

“To prove they are more than words — and to show our generation that he’ll stand with us, not Big Oil CEOs — Beto must take the #NoFossilFuelMoney pledge,” the group continued, linking to the pledge with a winking emoji.

The other Democratic candidates who have signed the fossil-free pledge are independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who’s campaigning on climate but has distanced himself from the Green New Deal in favor of his own road map to decarbonization.