Argus Media Ltd.

Argus Media Ltd.

Democrats challenging Trump seek pivot on energy

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Source: Argus Media Ltd.

Washington -- Some of the top Democratic candidates seeking to unseat President Donald Trump next year are promising to curtail fossil fuel development as part of an effort to address climate change and reduce pollution.

US senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) said today that, if elected, she would sign an executive order placing a 'total moratorium' on new leases for fossil fuel development on public land and offshore areas. Warren also said she would reinstate a rule restricting methane leaks and try to provide 10pc of US electricity demand from renewable energy on public land.

'Any serious efforts to address climate change must include public lands,' she said. 'Fossil fuel extraction in these areas is responsible for nearly a quarter of all US greenhouse gas emissions.'

Warren's campaign pledge is part of a renewed focus on climate and energy policy, as top-tier candidates try to differentiate themselves in a crowded primary field. Democratic hopefuls are also attempting to draw a contrast from Trump, who has aggressively pushed to expand fossil fuel development while rolling back most climate policies.

The Democratic focus on climate change was supercharged earlier this year by the introduction of the 'Green New Deal,' a non-binding resolution that seeks a major expansion in renewable energy and energy efficiency over the next decade as part of a goal to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

US senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Kamala Harris (D-California), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Warren are among the top-tier candidates who say they support the Green New Deal. Former US representative Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) is seeking a 'historic effort' to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.

Warren's proposal marks an escalation of policies pursued by former president Barack Obama, who late in his term put a temporary moratorium on new coal leasing on federal land and worked to ban offshore drilling in the Arctic. Despite those actions, Obama was mostly accommodating to the oil and gas sector during a time of rapid growth that was fueled by the shale drilling boom.

Oil and gas companies have long worried that a future president concerned about climate change could use executive power to stymie the industry. Oil and gas lobbyists in the run-up to the 2016 elections pushed a bill to require faster decisions on LNG export projects because of concerns that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, if elected, could try to block their approval. That push faded after Trump's election.

Trump's decision this year to declare a national emergency to fund construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border has raised new concerns about presidential authority on climate. Republicans now worry that new precedent, if upheld in court, could give a Democratic president justification to declare an emergency to take sweeping actions on climate change.

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