PHILADELPHIA — Say good-bye to the Democratic Party’s long-standing support for “all-of-the-above” energy, and hello to “some of the above.”
The party’s “all-of-the-above” energy commitment was stricken from the Democratic National Committee platform shortly before the convention under pressure by anti-fracking and climate change groups, another example of the party’s recent veer to the left.
“No more all of the above. No more bridge to the future. Sun and wind are now above natural gas,” said platform committee member Bill McKibben on Twitter after the panel agreed to end its support for “all of the above.”
Instead, the platform calls for having the nation run “entirely on clean energy by midcentury,” with a goal of “getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade.” The language is expected to be approved this week by delegates to the convention.
Eliminating fossil fuels is a tall order, given that in 2015, 67 percent of U.S. electricity was provided by fossil fuels, with 7 percent generated by renewable sources other than hydroelectric and nuclear power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The change comes with environmentalists increasingly flexing their muscles within the Democratic coalition, evidenced by San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer’s status as the party’s top individual funder as well as the rise of climate change as a litmus-test issue.
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“If you look at 2016 and the platform that we’ve agreed on, it is a quantum leap forward from four years ago,” said Mr. Steyer in a Monday interview on Bloomberg television from Philadelphia. “I think we have the most progressive environmental platform in the history of the Democratic Party.”
Pro-business groups are less than thrilled with the party’s new hard line on energy, which they have characterized as kowtowing to the left in order to keep supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders from defecting to the Green Party or sitting out the 2016 election.
Karen Harbert, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, described the decision to abandon fossil fuels as a significant and troubling leap for the Democratic Party on energy issues.
“In 2012, the DNC platform said, ‘We believe in an all-of-the-above policy.’ The platform that is coming out next week in Philadelphia abandons that,” said Ms. Harbert.”I think what we believe, the states believe, the governors believe, the industry believes is that we are going to use all of these forms of energy for a very long period of time,” said Ms. Harbert. “So let’s find ways to level the playing field, have an open market and have a government that doesn’t overregulate and choose winners and losers in this.”
Mr. Steyer, who donated $74 million primarily to anti-Republican causes in 2014, has already contributed $25 million to pro-Democrat groups and plans to spend $50 million during the 2016 cycle, according to the Energy & Environment Legal Institute.
The institute accused him in a report released Monday, “Buying the Democrat Party Lock, Stock and Barrel,” of attempting to protect his solar energy holdings through his advocacy.
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“As the leading mega-donor of both the Democratic Party and the climate change movement, Steyer is in the unique position to use his vast wealth to sway the Democratic Party to push his ambitious renewable energy initiative, while lining his own pockets in the process,” said the report.
Thousands of protesters backed by groups like Food & Water Watch braved the heat Sunday for a pre-convention March for a Clean Energy Revolution through the streets of Philadelphia calling for a ban on hydraulic fracturing — which is where the platform committee drew the line.
The committee instead agreed to include language saying that fracking should be banned “where states and local communities oppose it.”
As recently as May 2014, President Obama issued a report outlining his “all-of-the-above energy strategy,” pointing out that the United States alone among major countries has reduced its carbon emissions since 2005, a reduction credited in large part to increased reliance on natural gas.
“We can’t have an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past. We need an energy strategy for the future — an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy,” Mr. Obama said in 2012.
Doing away with fossil fuels would raise costs and reduce reliability, say supporters, given that electricity generation from coal and natural gas is still far less expensive than that generated by wind and solar, even with generous government subsidies.
The platform also calls for the Justice Department to investigate “allegations of corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies of misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.”
For an also-ran presidential contender, Mr. Sanders had unprecedented sway over this year’s platform in selecting five of the 15 committee members, almost as many as the six chosen by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The panel finalized details at its July 8-9 meeting in Orlando after heavy lobbying by environmental groups, including a Food & Water Watch petition signed by 90,000 people.
“The science is in: fracked natural gas, like other extreme energy, is a climate killer. The Obama-era ‘all of the above’ energy policy needs to end, beginning with the party platform,” said R.L. Miller, co-founder of Climate Hawks Vote, in a statement before the meeting.