with Alexandra Ellerbeck

Want more emails like this? Sign up for The Energy 202 newsletter.

Republicans love to berate Joe Biden over the Green New Deal. But it's not even his climate plan.

Both President Trump and Vice President Pence spent much of the first two debates conflating the Democratic nominee's plan for tackling climate change with an environmental blueprint introduced last year by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and embraced by many young progressives.

“They have a $2 trillion version of the Green New Deal,” Pence said Wednesday evening in Utah during his first and only appearance with Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). The Democrats' climate plan, he added, isn't “that very different from the original Green New Deal.” 

But Biden was blunt when distinguishing his plan from the other. “I don't support the Green New Deal,” he said. “I support the Biden plan I put forward.” 

So what is the difference?

The two diverge in size and scope, but both are about tackling cutting emissions while creating jobs. 

Biden says he embraces the Green New Deal as a “framework” for address rising temperatures. But he stresses he has his own separate plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Democrat is threading that needle to earn the support of young, left-leaning activists who view climate change as an existential threat while aiming not to alienate moderate voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio that rely on oil and gas drilling.

Biden made a conspicuous effort to consult both environmental activists and labor unions in crafting his plan to eliminate carbon pollution from the nation's power sector by 2035 and achieve net-zero emissions across the transportation, agricultural and other sectors of the economy by 2050.  

But the Green New Deal, as described in a resolution released in early 2019 by Ocasio-Cortez, sets an even more aggressive goal: Entirely eliminating U.S. contributions to climate change in just 10 years.

Experts say either target would be tough to hit. But U.N. scientists also say the world has precious little time to rapidly reduce the release of heat-trapping pollution. According to a 2018 report, nations will fail to keep global warming to moderate levels unless “unprecedented” cuts are made over the next decade.

Biden is selling his plan not only as a way to halt global warming, but also as an opportunity to bring back manufacturing domestically. “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs,' ” Biden said in July.

Backers of the Green New Deal have an even more sweeping vision. Included in the plan is a guarantee to provide Americans with jobs, as well as a promise to provide “high-quality health care.”

The Green New Deal is a broad blueprint, not a detailed plan such as Biden's.

What it has in breadth, the Green New Deal lacks in depth. It was introduced as a nonbinding resolution, written without specifics to build a broad coalition of supporters that included Harris, who was one of several Senate Democrats running for president who co-sponsored it.

It doesn't prescribe specifically how the federal government should reach its emissions-reduction goals. As the deal's proponents note, Franklin D. Roosevelt didn't have every detail of his own New Deal nailed down when he first pitched it during the Great Depression. 

The proposal also didn't specify a price tag, though conservative critics have claimed it would cost as much as $100 trillion. During last week's debate, Trump dusted off that talking point. “This is a $100 trillion,” he said. “That’s more money than our country could make in 100 years.”

Biden's plan, meanwhile, is more detailed. He wants Congress to pass legislation mandating emissions cuts from electric utilities and offering generous checks to those buying electric vehicles. His campaign says the plan will cost $2 trillion — not $100 trillion — over four years and would be paid for in part by rolling back Trump's tax cuts. 

Aiming to win Pennsylvania, Biden has consistently rebuffed activists' calls to demand an end to fracking, a controversial oil and gas extraction technique that not only contributes to climate change but also poses a danger to drinking water. But the Green New Deal doesn't address fracking at all.

One area of overlap between Biden's plan and the Green New Deal is in addressing the unequal impact pollution has on people of color.  

Biden wants to spend some 40 percent of the money earmarked for clean energy in historically disadvantaged areas. That target is in line with the Green New Deal's demand to “promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression” of what it calls “frontline and vulnerable communities.” 

Note: The Energy 202 will not publish on Monday or Tuesday of next week. See you on Wednesday!

Oil check

Chevron overtook ExxonMobil as the largest oil company in the United States.

Exxon has dominated the oil market for decades, but the company has struggled with cash flow during the pandemic. It was ejected from the Dow Jones industrial average in August, and now its market value has dipped below that of competitor Chevron, Bloomberg News reports

“Even so, both Exxon and Chevron are receding into the rear-view mirror of NextEra Energy Inc. The world’s biggest producer of wind and solar power has now surpassed the oil majors, leading a spectacular rally in power stocks as much of the world shuns fossil fuels to fight climate change,” Bloomberg News writes.

It’s been a rough week for Exxon. Leaked documents on Monday showed that the oil giant projected yearly direct emissions to increase by 17 percent by 2025. The announcement sparked a backlash among investors who pushed the company to share its emissions forecasts. On Thursday, the Church of England divested its $3.6 billion pension fund from the oil company over its failure to meet climate criteria.

Power plays

Democratic senators demand BlackRock live up to its climate commitments.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and four of his colleagues wrote a letter accusing investment management company BlackRock of failing to honor its promise that it would hold companies to account if they failed to manage climate risks. In January BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said the investor would be “increasingly disposed to vote against management and board directors when companies are not making sufficient progress” in combating climate change.

The letter cites data from the nonprofit group Majority Action, which found that BlackRock supported only three out of 36 shareholder resolutions the group deemed ‘climate critical,’ several times casting the deciding vote. The investor consistently voted against efforts to increase transparency around election spending and lobbying.

“You lag all of your peers in exercising your fiduciary responsibility to make companies account for their contributions — and exposure — to climate risks,” the senators wrote. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plan to protect land and coastal waters.

The Democrat's executive order, announced by the governor on Wednesday, aims to protect 30 percent of the state’s land and 30 percent of its coastal waters by 2030. It directs the California Natural Resources Agency to develop plans to protect the state’s land, waterways and agriculture industry, while also endorsing broad plans to restore wetlands and manage fire risks in forests, KCRA reports.

Newsom said that California will be the first state to enact such a plan but will join with 38 other countries and nations that have made similar commitments.

“This is an international movement. California, as the fifth-largest economy in the world, needs to flex its muscles,” he said.


Hurricane Delta is set to slam into Louisiana.

The storm weakened after passing over Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula on Wednesday but has since gathered strength.

Delta has regained Category 3 intensity and is set to slam the Bayou State on Friday at around that strength. The storm will create multiple storm hazards along the northern Gulf Coast, including storm surge inundation, damaging winds, flash flooding and tornadoes,” our colleagues Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow report. “Hurricane warnings are up from High Island, Tex., to Morgan City, La.”

Hurricane Delta is poised to slam Louisiana after barreling across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Oct. 7. (The Washington Post)

The storm is expected to cause a storm surge and dangerous winds in many of the same areas devastated by Hurricane Laura in late August.

Ads denying the severity of climate change were seen by millions, according to a new report.

At least 8 million Americans saw ads that the think tank Influence Map classified as climate misinformation.

“The 51 climate disinformation ads identified included ones stating that climate change is a hoax and that fossil fuels are not an existential threat. The ads were paid for by conservative groups whose sources of funding are opaque, according to a report by InfluenceMap,” the Guardian reports.

Facebook has promised to tackle climate disinformation on its platform, but critics say that there are still numerous loopholes that allow inaccurate information or deliberate distortions to proliferate.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) weighed in on the report, saying that it “reveals how Facebook lets climate deniers spread dangerous junk to millions of people.” 

Mario Molina, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist who worked on climate change, has died at 77.

Molina, who co-published a paper in 1974 linking the thinning of the ozone layer to the use of chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons, died in his native Mexico City on Wednesday, NBC News reports.

The Mexican scientist’s work contributed to the drafting of the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to protect the ozone layer, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in1995 along with scientists Frank Sherwood Rowland of the United States and Paul Crutzen of the Netherlands for research into climate change. Later in life, he focused on combating pollution and advocating for sustainable development.

In the courts

Federal judges heard arguments on a major Trump administration environmental rollback.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments Thursday about whether the EPA had violated the law when it scrapped the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, replacing it instead with a narrow rule focused on upgrades to coal-fired power plants, E&E News reports.

“Environmental interests, public health groups, blue states, power companies and clean energy associations have argued that EPA neglected its obligations to cut emissions by finalizing a rule that did not set any reduction targets for coal-fired power plants and left natural gas-fired facilities unregulated,” E&E News writes.

The EPA, for its part, argues that Section 111 of the Clean Air Act only allows for the agency to regulate facility level fixes, rather than the broader systemic approach favored by the Obama administration.

Bloomberg News environment reporter Ellen Gilmer provided updates on the hearing: