OLYMPIA — Not long ago, the U.S. was in the middle of a major decline in carbon emissions. That’s behind us. Now, the nation is back in it.
President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget would be a giant step backward. One of the largest energy industries is already fighting to stop Trump’s environmental policies.
Now, President Barack Obama’s plan to dramatically slow global warming could be reintroduced in Congress.
Yet even many opponents of the climate plan hope Biden lives long enough to see it passed.
And Biden’s opinion matters a lot. Because not only is he an Environmental Protection Agency administrator during the Clinton administration, he’s a former Delaware senator and presidential candidate.
Biden received an A+ on his climate credibility from The Sierra Club and a B+ from Greenpeace.
He joins a list of former officials and lawmakers who have become in-demand climate campaigners in recent years. The relatively short historical perspective on emissions makes Biden’s example all the more important for how environmentalists view his environmental performance.
Here are five things you need to know about Biden’s involvement.
He was a leading voice for global warming in the White House. Some, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, have started calling for Biden to be nominated to serve as Trump’s EPA administrator.
Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris agreement, causing confusion in international climate circles. U.S. Senators and House leaders have introduced new legislation to get that country back into the Paris agreement. Despite that approach, climate-focused lobbyists say Biden would be the most qualified person for the job.
He oversaw the biggest domestic cap-and-trade program. Biden led the vice-president’s Climate Task Force in 2001, which proposed a program to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. He called it the “single-largest initiative for science and policy in the administration.”
Biden was skeptical about climate change in his first term. In a 1992 campaign interview, he described climate change as a “hoax” and questioned whether humans were contributing to it. After the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, he reversed his stance.
He has consistently criticized the EPA. One of his administration’s most consequential actions — President Obama’s Clean Power Plan — was reversed on court orders, except for one. That one judge ordered Obama to reinstate the plan.
Biden is a big, bad of oil companies. The oil and gas industries aren’t the only ones that have not been very happy with Biden. The Podesta Group — his former firm — represents companies that are financially invested in oil and gas, including BP, TransCanada, Devon Energy, EOG Resources, Diamondback Energy, Marathon Oil, Chevron, Tesoro and Anadarko.
In addition, reports suggest these oil industries paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote coal mines and their operations. The latest Podesta Group lobbying disclosure, for instance, included ExxonMobil, Noble Energy, MPLX LP, Whiting Petroleum and other industry clients.
Biden’s college fraternity plans a climate march. Officials at Hecht College said they wanted to hold a climate march “in Washington, D.C. and around the world in line with the worldwide launch of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in March.” Biden joined the nation’s second-oldest historically black college in protest.
Biden is a de facto elder statesman among environmentalists. White House officials who supported climate protection under President Bill Clinton, including former aides who held top job in Biden’s office, remain in favor of the plans, though Biden is a bit of a lightning rod.
Hillary Clinton had a very similar and friendly relationship with the fossil fuel industry. Obama has maintained a friendly relationship with the fossil fuel industry.