Democratic nominee Joe Biden, during the first presidential debate, denied backing the Green New Deal, which many moderates and conservatives have denounced as unrealistic, costly, and synonymous with leftist overreach.
“The Green New Deal is not my plan,” Biden said during the Sept. 29 debate in Cleveland, Ohio.
When the debate turned to the issue of Biden’s proposals for a shift to a green economy, Fox News moderator Chris Wallace asked about the candidate’s plans for “$2 trillion in green jobs” and “ending the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.”
Biden responded: “Nobody’s going to build another coal-fired plant in America. No one’s going to build another oil-fired plant in America. They’re going to move to renewable energy.” Steps he vowed to take include weatherizing buildings, rejoining the Paris Accord, and building new, green infrastructure.
President Donald Trump, at one point, interjected by saying, “He’s talking about the Green New Deal,” adding that it would cost “$100 trillion” and that this is “more money than our country could make in 100 years.”
Biden pushed back against Trump’s claim that he backs the Green New Deal, saying, “I’m talking about the Biden plan,” and rejected the notion that it would be that costly.
Wallace then said, “I actually have studied your plan, and it includes upgrading 4 million buildings, weatherizing 2 million homes over four years, building one and a half million energy-efficient homes. … That sounds like it’s going to cost a lot of money and hurt the economy.”
Biden responded by saying it would “create thousands and millions of jobs” and that the net costs would be lower because of savings in the form of billions now being spent “on floods, hurricanes, rising seas” due to global warming.
Wallace then pressed Biden to specify the cost of his environmental promises, to which the candidate replied, “The Green New Deal will pay for itself as we move forward,” prompting Wallace to ask, “Do you support the Green New Deal?”
“No, I don’t support the Green New Deal,” Biden replied.
Trump cut in with, “Oh, you don’t? Well, that’s a big statement. That means you just lost the radical left. It’s gone.”
Biden then said, “I support the Biden plan that I put forward,” adding, “which is different than what he calls the radical Green New Deal.”
The Green New Deal legislation (pdf) was introduced to Congress by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in 2019 and subsequently failed to pass a procedural vote in the Senate by a vote of 57–0.
While Biden has distanced himself from the Green New Deal and has formulated his own plan, called The Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice, his campaign website references the controversial legislation as the underpinnings of his plan.
“Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face. It powerfully captures two basic truths, which are at the core of his plan: (1) the United States urgently needs to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge, and (2) our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected,” it states.
The Epoch Times requested clarification from the Biden campaign on the apparent close alignment of Biden’s plan to the Green New Deal, but didn’t receive an immediate reply.
While earlier Democrat emission reduction efforts largely focused on market-based mechanisms such as carbon taxes, the Green New Deal is a combination of top-down mandates to achieve clean power targets, massive government spending, industrial policy to create jobs in specific sectors, and a focus on “environmental justice” for communities most impacted by pollution.
Biden’s plan carries a price tag of $2 trillion, has a goal of zero net emissions by 2050, and seeks to achieve clean electricity by 2035 by means of government mandates. It features industrial-policy-type initiatives such as using government funding to spur research into renewables, and uses an “inclusive and empowering All-of-Government approach” to channel 40 percent of the investment into “a clean energy revolution to disadvantaged communities.”
“Basically, Joe Biden endorsed a Green New Deal in our view, substantively,” said Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of strategy and policy at the progressive polling and policy shop Data for Progress, in remarks to Slate, when asked about how closely Biden’s own plan mirrors the Green New Deal.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who co-sponsored the Green New Deal, suggested close alignment between Biden’s clean energy plan and the Green New Deal in a tweet following the Sept. 29 debate: “The movement for a Green New Deal is going to defeat Donald Trump and his fossil fuel cronies. We’re going to elect Joe Biden and fight to pass the aggressive climate action which we need.”
Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, who serves as co-chair of the Biden campaign’s climate change panel, responded to Trump’s claims during the debate of a $100 trillion price tag on the Green New Deal.
“When Republicans talk about the Green New Deal being 100 trillion dollars, please know they’re doing that Dr. Evil thing where they shout random, escalating numbers to sound ominous,” she wrote on Twitter, and shared a link to the legislation, urging people to “see for yourself.”
While the draft legislation doesn’t feature cost estimates for the plan, it does include the assertion that global warming would, by 2100, cost more than $500 billion per year in lost economic output and risk a total of $1 trillion in damage to public infrastructure and coastal real estate in the United States. This plays into the view expressed by Biden during the debate, and others before him, that the Green New Deal would “pay for itself” by eliminating the cost of inaction.
A figure of $93 trillion as the Green New Deal price tag has often been referenced in discussions.
“There’s a race for think tankers, analysts, and academia to be the first to come up with a number, and you can see why—look at how many people latched on to that $93 trillion number,” said Nick Loris, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, in remarks to Politico. “A lot of times you just see the number and you don’t get a lot of the backstory behind the number.”
The $93 trillion figure is based on a report by a conservative think tank, American Action Forum (AAF), and was arrived at by adding together the cost estimates that the authors put on different aspects of the Green New Deal platform.
One of the authors of the report, AAF President Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, told Politico that any precision in the calculations beyond estimating that it will run into the trillions, “is illusory.”
He said his organization’s cost estimates should be seen as “a sincere but a heroic estimate of a not very well-specified proposal,” referring to the Green New Deal’s aspirational, rather than specific, nature.