Democrats’ newest climate platform: Hammering fossil fuel companies

The rhetoric from candidates like Sanders, Warren and even Biden echoes the fervor of the climate change activists backing the Green New Deal.

Jay Inslee
Democratic presidential candidates like Washington Gov. Jay Inslee have been increasingly assertive in their rhetoric over climate change. | Paul Sancya/AP Photo

Democratic White House hopefuls are getting increasingly aggressive on climate change — and calling for oil, gas and coal producers to pay for their role in climbing temperatures, rising seas and catastrophic weather.

The sharpened tone includes former Vice President Joe Biden’s promise to “take action against fossil fuel companies,” as well as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ charge that the businesses committed “criminal activity” by knowingly producing the greenhouse gases that worsen climate change. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposes legislation that could pave the way for lawsuits against the companies, while Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has accused fossil fuel producers of “killing people” and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to create a fossil fuel “excise tax.”

The rhetoric echoes the fervor of climate change activists who have pushed Democrats to embrace an ambitious “Green New Deal” that would wean the U.S. off fossil fuels in a decade or more, and comes amid lawsuits from states, cities and citizens accusing the companies of hiding evidence that their products are harming the planet.

But Republicans say they welcome the trend, too, accusing Democrats of pushing a radical attack on an industry that has provided one of the brightest spots in the economy and has reduced U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

“The deeper and the longer the Democrats talk about this, the happier the Trump campaign is,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who speaks regularly with the White House and President Donald Trump’s reelection effort. “They see fodder not so much in the issue but in the solutions being proposed by the Democrats.” MORE

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