CAMPAIGN DIARY # 26 – Ever since Joe Biden announced his desire to “leave the old” oil industry, which “pollutes significantly”, Donald Trump has relentlessly attacked him for this “blunder”. But is it really? Times have changed, and Biden has opinion on his side.
The most exasperating thing, for four years, is to see Donald Trump and the political world be subjected to different standards. When Trump says whatever goes through his mind, including the worst horrors, his constituents swoon over their hero who “tells it like it is” and many in the media appreciate the fact that he does “speak” not like a politician “. But as soon as one of these politicians says without make-up what he thinks, it is the outcry: what a blunder! What a blunder! It will cost him votes!
An example? Biden’s comments on oil, during the second and last debate, Thursday 22 October. When Trump asked him if he wanted “the oil industry to go out of business,” Biden didn’t shy away: “Yes, I have a transition plan to leave the old industry.” And to clarify: “The oil industry pollutes significantly”, “it must be gradually replaced by renewable energy and I will stop showering it with federal subsidies.”
Trump could not believe his good fortune: “You will remember, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Ohio?” And since then, he has pounded Biden in all his meetings for this “blunder”, claiming – even if it is a lie – that the Democrat also wants to ban “fracking”.
But is this really a blunder? Democrats in oil-extraction regions admittedly squealed, and within an hour of the debate, Biden and his advisers clarified that this was a long-term plan: “We’re not going get rid of fossil fuels before long, “said the candidate.
But he did not deny his words, on the contrary. On Saturday October 24, on a podcast, Biden spoke about climate change with unusual force: “This is my number one priority,” he said. “Climate change is an existential threat to humanity, if we do nothing the planet will literally roast. This is not hyperbole, this is reality. And we have a moral obligation” d ‘to act.
Calculated bet? Without a doubt. In the oil regions, it is doubtful that Joe Biden’s words cost him much voice. “I don’t think that’s a problem,” said the deputy governor of Pennsylvania, a Democrat from the western part of the state, where the wells are located. “I believe that if you are fundamentally dedicated to this industry, you have already made your choice.” Even at the scale of this key state for the presidential election, it is not at all sure that the political cost of this frank talk is high: in Pennsylvania, 74,000 jobs are related to clean energy, against 23,000 associated with oil . We can see the same transition to renewable energy in Texas, a leading state in wind power, an industry which is now recruiting former employees from the oil industry.
Conversely, Trump’s promises to “save” fossil fuels were just that: empty commitments. And in the regions concerned, it shows. Take, for example, coal, the president’s favorite during his first campaign. Peabody, the industry leader, saw its stock climb to nearly $ 47 in June 2018, boosted by Trump’s promises; it is now worth $ 1.53. Arch Coal, No. 2, has seen its share price drop 62% since its peak in April 2019. Industry No. 3 and 4 are bankrupt. ARP’s No.5 stock is worth seven times less than Trump’s election day.
Wind power “kills all birds”
The reality is simple: Trump or not Trump, companies keep shutting down their coal plants because consumers don’t want them. Ore only provides one fifth of electricity production, compared to more than half ten years ago. Oil is less advanced in this transition, but the direction is the same. There is nothing revolutionary about Biden’s words.
The novelty is that he can pronounce them. “Joe Biden says we are going to have to switch from petroleum to renewable energy. This is considered common sense. It is important,” notes Bill McKibben, one of the most famous environmental activists. In recent years, with natural disasters helping, American opinion has changed dramatically: nearly two-thirds of voters believe that the federal government is not doing enough to mitigate the effects of climate change, Pew Research Center poll shows. For 79% of them, the development of alternative energies should be a priority.
It even goes beyond opinion polls. British Petroleum announced in August its intention to drastically reduce the share of its activities in oil and natural gas. And five of America’s six biggest banks – Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo – pledged last year to stop funding Arctic exploration and new drilling.
To hear Trump ramble on about “ruinous” wind energy which “kills all birds”, one has the right to wonder if “Joe-the-blunderer” is not the one who, in terms of the environment, knew update its software.