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The Energy 202: Sunrise Movement to score 2020 candidates on Green New Deal — and yes, tweets count

with Paulina Firozi


The Sunrise Movement plans to score the top three candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination based not only on how aggressively they say they want to tackle climate change, but also on how much they talk about the issue on Twitter.

The increasingly influential environmental group, founded in 2017, has spent most of the past year pushing the idea of a Green New Deal into the lexicon on Capitol Hill and on the 2020 campaign trail. 

Now they're going to actually rank how the top-polling three candidates actually stack up: The forthcoming rankings will determine how their energy, transportation, agricultural and environmental policies fit into the group’s vision of a Green New Deal which broadly calls for a 10-year plan to slash U.S. carbon emissions. 

But in a move that underscores the new era of climate politics, 15 percent of each candidates’ score will be determined by how frequently they posted on Twitter about terms such as "climate crisis” and the “#greennewdeal” over the past three months. 

“Twitter was chosen as the primary form of social media because all candidates have more Twitter followers than Facebook or Instagram followers,” according to a rubric of the scorecard released Tuesday. Evan Weber, Sunrise's political director, said that the group is considering including an analysis of what candidates say on television and on other social media websites as well.

The social media emphasis shows just how much Sunrise — and young climate activists in general — value candidates who not only take their preferred policy positions, but also talk about what they regard as a global crisis loudly, clearly and in a way that gets more people to join the cause.

"The intent of it is to evaluate how much the candidates are campaigning on the issue," Weber said.

When it comes to the rest of the score, Sunrise stresses the candidates’ plans need to be comprehensive — “not just a ‘climate bill,’ a single policy, or a set of policies, but a governing vision,” the scorecard reads. 

They also need to put the U.S. economy on a path to achieving net-zero emissions “well before” the middle of the century. And the proposals need to “go beyond” market-based mechanisms such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program, which have been at the center of Democrats’ climate legislation in the past.

Former vice president Joe Biden, who leads most polls for the Democratic nod, embraced the notion of a Green New Deal in June when he released his climate plan. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the other two consistently top-polling candidates, each sponsored the Senate version of the Green New Deal resolution championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Biden has promised to create more than 10 million well-paying jobs while putting the country on track for net-zero emissions at 2050 at the latest. Warren is pitching a $3 trillion clean energy plan that involves creating a “Green Marshall Plan” to encourage foreigners to buy U.S.-made green technologies. And Sanders wants to spend $16.3 trillion over the next decade with a goal of eliminating the use of fossil fuels from power plants in part by getting the federal government deeper into the business of generating electricity.

Another portion of Sunrise's score will be calculated by their willingness to take certain steps to implement their plans, such as ending the Senate filibuster, curtailing gerrymandering and granting voting rights to felons. The only one of the three to openly support an end to the filibuster is Warren.

Sunrise’s scorecard amounts to assessment markedly different from the other well-known environmental scorecard for politicians in Washington: the one from the League of Conservation Voters.

LCV, which raises tens of millions of dollars for environmentally minded federal and state candidates every two years, issues annual scores of members of the House and Senate based solely on their voting record in each chamber. Biden, Warren and Sanders have lifetime LCV scores of 83 percent, 99 percent and 92 percent, respectively.

The Sunrise Movement has already backed a number of Democrats in congressional races. Their endorsements include immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, who is trying to unseat moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), and Edward J. Markey, senator from Massachusetts and author of the Green New Deal resolution with Ocasio-Cortez, in his tough primary race against Rep. Joe Kennedy.

But when it comes to the 2020 presidential race, many progressives are torn between Sanders and Warren. So for the moment, the Sunrise Movement is stopping short of backing a presidential candidate.

Sunrise spokesman Stephen O'Hanlon said the group is still "considering whether or not to make presidential primary endorsement." The group plans on releasing scores for other presidential candidates at a later date as well.


— The latest on Rick Perry: Energy Secretary Rick Perry is denying reports that he’s eyeing an exit from the Trump administration even as he appears increasingly entangled in the Trump administration's policy toward Ukraine, which is at the center of a House impeachment inquiry

  • A planned exit? Perry is looking to step down by the end of the year, The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Josh Dawsey reported, adding he will probably return to the private sector.
  • “No. I’m here, I’m serving”: That's what Perry said when asked about those initial reports of his departure at a news conference in Lithuania, per Reuters. “They’ve been writing the story for at least nine months now. One of these days they will probably get it right, but it’s not today, it’s not tomorrow, it’s not next month.”
  • What Perry says he asked Trump to do: Perry said he “absolutely” asked Trump to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but both he and an aide say the push was to talk about energy and economic issues. “Absolutely, I asked the president multiple times — 'Mr. President, we think it is in the United States and the Ukraine's best interest, that you and the president of Ukraine have conversations, that you discuss the options that are there.' So absolutely, yes,” Perry said in Lithuania. But Perry told CBN News that the Biden family was not brought up in discussions with Ukrainian officials: “Not once, as God as my witness, not once was a Biden name — not the former vice president, not his son — ever mentioned.”
  • What Trump ended up doing: According to a rough transcript of the July 25 phone call, the president ended up asking “a favor” that included requests to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
  • The context: Perry's latest remarks follow a report from Axios that Trump appeared to throw his energy secretary under the bus, telling House Republicans that it was Perry who urged him to make a July call to Zelensky. “But Trump did not suggest that Perry had anything to do with the pressure on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, or a U.S. holdup in military aid to the country,” AP reports.

At the very least, Politico reports, “Perry played an active role in the Trump administration's efforts to shape decisions by the newly elected government of President Volodymyr Zelensky. Among other changes, Perry pushed for Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz to expand its board to include Americans, two people familiar with the matter said. Two longtime energy executives based in Perry’s home state of Texas were among those under consideration for that role, one source familiar with the administration’s dealings with the company said.” At the news conference, Perry said he made recommendations to Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company but said he only did after a request from Ukraine’s government.

— In case you missed it: The latest installment of The Post’s “2C project,” Anton Troianovski and Chris Mooney highlight the impact of a rapidly warming Siberia. In one region near the town of Zyryanka, in part of eastern Siberia, the area has warmed by more than 3 degrees Celsius since the preindustrial era, or roughly triple the global average. “The permafrost that once sustained farming — and upon which villages and cities are built — is in the midst of a great thaw, blanketing the region with swamps, lakes and odd bubbles of earth that render the land virtually useless,” they write. “…For the 5.4 million people who live in Russia’s permafrost zone, the new climate has disrupted their homes and their livelihoods. Rivers are rising and running faster, and entire neighborhoods are falling into them. Arable land for farming has plummeted by more than half, to just 120,000 acres in 2017.”

— AOC is raising money for her Green New Deal co-author: Ocasio-Cortez sent a fundraising email calling for donations to support Markey as he’s set to face a primary challenge from Joe Kennedy III. In it, she cites a report that her 2018 primary opponent, former Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), is fundraising for Kennedy. "While Ed Markey is fighting for the Green New Deal in the Senate, Joe Kennedy is getting campaign support from Crowley hosting a high dollar fundraiser on October 15," the email reads.

— Disaster-response systems aren’t keeping up with the changing climate: Nearly a year after the devastating fire in Paradise, Calif., there has been no independent investigation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not completed its own after-action report. Experts say transparent assessments help improve the nation’s disaster preparedness, The Post’s Frances Stead Sellers reports, especially as global warming makes disasters more frequent occurrences. “Some have called for the creation of an independent body like the [National Transportation Safety Board] with investigatory powers, charged not only with determining the cause of disasters but also promoting safety,” she writes. Thomas Kirsch, director of the National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health at the Uniformed Services University, told The Post the “disaster-response industry is probably the only industry left in the world that uses self-analysis to measure impact and make improvements.” 

— Drill, baby, drill: The Trump administration is moving forward with plans more auctions for oil and natural gas drilling rights across the country.

  • In California: The administration issued a final decision to open 725,000 acres of California land to oil and gas drilling — land that has been off limits since 2013. The move, which the Bureau of Land Management says will still require additional approval, would allow plots of land to be leased that are mostly in the state’s Central Valley, the Associated Press reports. In a statement, Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, called the move a “toxic convergence of Trump’s climate denial, loyalty to the oil industry and grudge against California."
  • And in the Gulf of Mexico: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it plans to hold its next oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf on March 18. “Lease Sale 254 will offer 78 million acres and 14,585 blocks, or nearly all available Gulf of Mexico waters not currently facing a drilling prohibition, such as much of the eastern Gulf, which remains under a congressional moratorium,” S&P Global Platts reports.
Extinction Rebellion protesters in London held cilmate protests on Oct. 7 and blocked Westminster Bridge with dance and yoga. (Video: James Bickerton via Storyful)

— Meet the climate protesters blocking traffic around the globe: Extinction Rebellion protesters have launched a two-week effort to block major roads and generally shut down dozens of cities worldwide in a push to urge people to take the climate crisis seriously. “The group’s message is that climate change is an emergency that requires drastic and immediate action. They have already seen some success,” The Post’s Karla Adam reports. “But their tactics test public tolerance for social and economic disruption. Some say their specific demands are wildly unrealistic … The protesters are walking a tightrope — they want to spark enough disruption to effect change but not so much they alienate the public.”

— "It’s exactly what we wanted": That’s what a corn and soybean farmer and a Trump supporter told the New York Times about the administration’s plan to boost ethanol demand. “The decision, which was cheered in a Corn Belt that has also been battered this year by tariffs and floods, underscored the importance of the rural Midwest to Mr. Trump’s reelection hopes and gave a boost to farmers at the end of a difficult growing season,” the Times reports. After the Trump administration decided last August to exempt more oil refineries from the nation’s biofuel mandate, “Midwestern Republicans in Congress pressed the president to reverse course in a series of closed-door meetings, and farmers, who helped Mr. Trump sweep to victory in 2016, voiced their anger in unusually blunt terms.”

U.S. Supreme Court to hear case of gas pipeline seeking to cross Appalachian Trail in Va. (Gregory S. Schneider)

The Brazilian Amazon is still burning. Who is responsible? (Meg Kelly and Sarah Cahlan)



  • The National Association of State Energy Officials and U.S. Energy Information Administration host a Winter Energy Outlook Webinar.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds an event on climate change and maritime sustainability, sovereignty and security.
  • The Smart Cities Connect Fall Conference and Expo begins.

Coming Up

  • The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight holds a field hearing on addressing the lead crisis through innovation and technology on Oct. 15.


— Meet "Miracle": A puppy now named Miracle was found alive in the Bahamas after being trapped for weeks after Hurricane Dorian. 

Big Dog Ranch Rescue saved a dog who was trapped in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, on Oct. 4. (Video: Big Dog Ranch Rescue)