- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernard Sanders on Wednesday proposed halting all fossil-fuel development on federal lands as part of a broader plan to fight global warming — but the Vermont independent remains stunningly silent on whether he’ll go “carbon neutral” and take steps to curb his own campaign’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

Mr. Sanders joins fellow Democratic White House contender former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, both of whom have made climate change a central part of their platform, in refusing to answer questions about carbon neutrality. Neither campaign responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the other hand, has said she’ll run a carbon-neutral operation, but so far her campaign has yet to turn that promise into a reality.

The concept of carbon neutrality involves offsetting emissions by, among other things, paying for the planting of trees and taking other steps to protect the environment. Campaigns also can offset emissions elsewhere in the campaign to make up for a heavy carbon footprint, such as cutting pollution from office spaces to make up for carbon-intensive campaign flights.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign followed through on its carbon neutrality promise in 2008, but has yet to take concrete steps this time around.

At the same time, she and other Democrats are leading the charge to implement strict environmental regulations, including limiting carbon emissions from power plants.

Mr. Sanders and other Democrats have gone even further, seeking an all-out prohibition on oil-and-gas drilling on federal land.

Mr. Sanders on Wednesday joined Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat, and leading environmental activists in introducing a bill that would stop the government from granting new oil-and-gas drilling leases on federal land. The measure also would prevent the government from renewing unused leases.

“It is absurd that at a time when we should be cutting carbon emissions, we are instead extracting even more fossil fuels on public lands,” Mr. Sanders tweeted Wednesday, hours after he and Mr. Merkley held a Capitol Hill press conference to formally unveil their new piece of legislation.

Both men admit the bill will go nowhere under a Republican-controlled conference.

While oil-and-gas industry groups said the Sanders-Merkley plan would hamper economic growth and drive up energy prices, other critics say the proposal — combined with the lack of action on carbon neutrality — underscores deep hypocrisy within the Democratic Party, especially among those who have made climate change a top priority.

“Instead of trying to fix all of the problems the government has created that have led to stagnant growth, declining standards of living and loss of income by middle class families, some politicians are wasting time on issues they can’t do anything about, like the weather,” said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the conservative Institute for Energy Research. “It’s becoming a dangerous cult of the do-nothings, all of whom claim to be more pious than everyone else. Meanwhile, they are content to fly around the country on jets proclaiming how righteous they are. In truth, their actions just make the country poorer, and hurt the least among us. Theirs is a cruel religion.”

On the question of carbon neutrality, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment from the Washington Times. But the Clinton camp has recently reiterated that it will at some point implement a carbon-neutral plan.

“Offsetting our carbon is still an important goal for this campaign,” Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin told CNN late last night. “We will be taking steps to meet this goal.”

Mr. Sanders‘ campaign, however, has made no such public pledge, despite the senator saying at a Democratic debate last month that climate change is the biggest threat facing the U.S. today.

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