Climate activists marched as President Joe Biden attended a campaign reception

Climate activists marched as President Joe Biden attended a campaign reception on May 10, 2023 in New York

(Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden Climate Failures Risk 'Disillusioning Young Voters' in 2024, Progressives Warn

"He needs youth turnout in 2024. This ain't the way to get it," said one climate advocate after the president supported expedited approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

President Joe Biden's continued approval of major fossil fuel projects—from Willow in Alaska to the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and West Virginia—has progressives increasingly concerned about youth voter enthusiasm heading into the 2024 elections, particularly given the climate threat posed by another Republican administration.

Michelle Weindling, the youth-led Sunrise Movement's electoral director, toldAxios on Tuesday that the Biden administration's support for huge drilling operations and other destructive projects runs the risk of "disillusioning young voters" who were critical to Biden's 2020 victory over former President Donald Trump, a climate denier.

Sunrise's grassroots turnout operation helped reach more than 3 million young voters in swing states in 2020, driving record-shattering youth turnout.

But the group and other youth-led advocacy organizations have been highly critical of the president's climate record thus far, warning many of his policy decisions will have damaging environmental and political consequences.

During Biden's first two years in office, his administration approved more oil and gas drilling permits on public lands than the industry-aligned Trump administration did in 2017 and 2018—a flagrant violation of Biden's campaign pledge to end drilling on U.S. federal land.

While acknowledging legislative victories secured in the Inflation Reduction Act—which makes historic, though still insufficient and flawed, renewable energy investments—progressive groups and experts have voiced dismay over the Biden administration's decision to greenlight the massive Willow drilling project in Alaska.

"Multiple things can be true," Leah Stokes, a political science professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, told Axios, arguing that Biden is the "best climate president" compared to his predecessors but it's "still not enough."

"If we're going to excite one of the leading voting blocs for Democrats, we need you to deliver the bold ideas that our generation cannot live without."

Climate justice groups erupted earlier this month when Congress approved and Biden signed debt ceiling legislation that requires federal agencies to issue all permits necessary to complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline—a multibillion-dollar, 300-mile fracked gas project that could have the same emissions impact as dozens of new coal-fired power plants.

"Support for Biden's climate record plummeted among young people after his approval of the Willow Project," noted Fossil Free Media director Jamie Henn, pointing to polling data showing that Biden's climate approval ratings dropped among younger voters in the wake of the Willow project approval in March.

"Greenlighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline will drive it down even further," Henn wrote on Twitter. "He needs youth turnout in 2024. This ain't the way to get it."

A new Data for Progress survey shared with Axios shows that around 48% of likely voters between the ages of 18 and 34 said they were less likely to vote for Biden because of his "approval of new oil and gas drilling projects on public lands, such as the Willow project in Alaska."

In a letter to Biden following his 2024 reelection campaign announcement earlier this year, four top youth-led advocacy groups declared that their coalition "is deeply committed to defeating fascist, right-wing extremism and the eventual Republican presidential nominee."

"But when bad decisions are made—like approving the Willow Project, denying asylum and citizenship for millions of immigrants, and settling for the status quo—it's harder for us to get young people to the polls. That's why we need you to listen and co-govern with us if we're going to be able to mobilize the young voters we need to win," wrote the Sunrise Movement, March for Our Lives, Gen Z for Change, and United We Dream.

"If we're going to excite one of the leading voting blocs for Democrats," the groups added, "we need you to deliver the bold ideas that our generation cannot live without—stop the climate crisis, fight for the rights and dignity of immigrants, impose real gun control—and run on a bold platform that will get our generation out to vote."

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