Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Activists took to the streets of Washington, D.C. on September 27, 2019 to demand an immediate end to the age of fossil fuels and a swift and just transition to renewable energy. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Activists took to the streets of Washington, D.C. on September 27, 2019 to demand an immediate end to the age of fossil fuels and a swift and just transition to renewable energy. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

'These Two Things Are Related': As Big Oil Ups Donations to Dems, Biden Says Fossil Fuel Ban This Decade 'Not Possible'

"Yes it is. And we're going to do it," countered Jamie Henn of Fossil Free Media.

Kenny Stancil

During his town hall event Thursday night on ABC, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden declared banning fossil fuels within the decade an impossibility, just as the latest filings showed that major U.S. oil and gas companies have increased their financial contributions to Democratic candidates this election cycle—prompting one critic to warn Friday about the negative role that Big Oil donors play in weakening climate policies. 

"The difference between me and the new green deal is they say, automatically, by 2030 we're going to be carbon free. Not possible," Biden said on Thursday night. 

Biden's comments coincided with news that Chevron and Exxon Mobil, the two largest energy firms in the U.S., have "increased their share of campaign donations to Democrats this year... amid a looming battle over fracking," as Reuters reported Friday. 

"These two things are related," Matt Huber, a geographer specializing in labor, energy, and climate politics, noted Friday on social media, connecting the dots between the growing Democratic share of the fossil fuel industry's political donations and Biden's more moderate approach to emissions reductions. 

In a Twitter thread, Huber pointed out that the ruling class used to say the same thing about an eight-hour work day and other democratic regulations on the power of capital that Biden now says about rapidly ending the use of fossil fuels.

In the nineteenth century, Huber pointed out, "capitalists proclaim[ed] laws to limit the working day, bans on child labor, and other moral basics were simply 'impossible.'"

Unsurprisingly, Biden is light-years ahead of President Donald Trump, who as Climatewire noted, "didn't mention climate or energy issues during his combative NBC town hall" Thursday night. 

Although progressives are pushing for a faster timeline for transforming the country's energy infrastructure, Biden does have a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the next few decades while creating millions of green jobs, unlike the current White House. 

For instance, while the Trump administration has bailed out the faltering fossil fuel industry during its pandemic-driven downturn, Biden proposed using public subsidies in more socially and environmentally beneficial ways.

The government could provide funding "to hire 128,000 of these people who are working in the industry to cap these [abandoned, methane-emitting] wells and get a good salary doing it now," he said. 

As Climatewire reported, "Biden also returned to his usual climate pitch: Use the federal government's purchasing power to expand the electric vehicle market, invest in charging stations, and hire union workers to weatherize millions of buildings."

However, Biden also echoed his running mate Kamala Harris' recent defense of hydraulic fracturing when he said, "First of all, I make it clear, I do not propose banning fracking"—even though recent polling shows that fracking's negative impacts on human and environmental health have made it unpopular in places like Pennsylvania. 

As Common Dreams noted earlier this week when reporting on the Sunrise Movement's new ad for Mike Siegel, the Democratic candidate for Texas' 10th congressional district, climate justice advocates have begun using unions as a vehicle to increase support for the Green New Deal among coal, gas, and oil workers as well as the public at large—many of whom have either not heard of or do not have a clear understanding of the plan, according to recent research. 

Yet at the same time, Biden has been distancing himself from the Green New Deal, diluting its more ambitious and aggressive approach to achieving zero-emission electricity generation and transmission. 

"My deal is a crucial framework, but not the new green deal," Biden said. "The new green deal calls for elimination of all nonrenewable energy by 2030. You can't get there. You're going to need to be able to transition."

Huber—who has written at length about the need to interweave the labor and environmental movements to realize a just transition to renewable energy that is supportive of and supported by the working class—acknowledged that problems like solar and wind intermittency and inadequate storage technology render it "very difficult" to completely eradicate dirty energy sources within the decade, but he argued that "it's bad to claim impossibility from the outset."

"If you take seriously the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report," Huber said, "and the need for the U.S. [to achieve] disproportionate reductions [of greenhouse gas emissions], we need radical curbs of fossil fuels FAST."

Regarding the possibility of eliminating fossil fuels in 10 years, 350.org co-founder and director of Fossil Free Media Jamie Henn tweeted Friday: "Yes it is. And we're going to do it."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Progressive Delia Ramirez Defeats Billionaire PAC Money to Win Illinois Primary

"Billionaires and their super PACs are spending millions to defeat progressive candidates," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, who endorsed Ramirez. "They have the money, but we've got the people."

Jake Johnson ·


'Witness Intimidation. Clear as Day': Jan. 6 Panel Teases Evidence of Cover-Up Effort

"Add witness tampering to the laundry list of crimes Trump and his allies must be charged with," said professor Robert Reich.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Bombshell After Bombshell' Dropped as Jan. 6 Testimony Homes In On Trump Guilt

"Hutchinson's testimony of the deeply detailed plans of January 6 and the inaction of those in the White House in response to the violence show just how close we came to a coup," said one pro-democracy organizer.

Brett Wilkins ·


Mark Meadows 'Did Seek That Pardon, Yes Ma'am,' Hutchinson Testifies

The former aide confirmed that attorney Rudy Giuliani also sought a presidential pardon related to the January 6 attack.

Jessica Corbett ·


UN Chief Warns of 'Ocean Emergency' as Leaders Confront Biodiversity Loss, Pollution

"We must turn the tide," said Secretary-General António Guterres. "A healthy and productive ocean is vital to our shared future."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo