Some Democrats freaked out the other night when Joe Biden said that we should slowly transition from oil to renewable energy. Oh no, they cried, he's blown the election! He's gifted a "gaffe" to the twisted grifter!
Chill out, folks. It's 2020, not 1950.
Most Americans alive today don't worship Big Oil. They want to transition to renewable energy. Biden, a conventionally mainstream politician, merely stated a mainstream position. Anyone who thinks that Trump can ride Biden's remarks to victory should be awarded a political science degree from Trump University.
On the debate stage Thursday night, during an exchange about climate change (which Trump has long dismissed as a hoax), Biden said oil needs to be "replaced by renewable energy over time." He also reiterated his plan to end federal subsidies for the oil industry.
"Basically, what he is saying is he's going to destroy the oil industry," Trump shot back, taken Biden out of context.
Trump and his desperate enablers may think that Biden has handed them a game-changer, but, as always, they're not living in the real world. Biden didn't say anything controversial. At a time when the reality of climate change is self-evident (intensifying wildfires, floods, hurricanes, derechos), what Biden said is now conventional wisdom.
Even Big Oil knows what needs to happen. BP has announced a plan to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050. We've already been trending away from oil; according to the federal government's own stats, domestic oil consumption has been falling for the past 15 years. And most Americans are fine with the idea of ending all federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. A national poll four years ago found that 62 percent of registered voters - including 54 percent of Republicans -- want to cut off that money.
In the aftermath of Biden's remarks on debate night, 52 percent of independent voters are in favor of phasing out oil in the long run, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll. Even among Republican voters, 41 percent said yes. And when all voters were asked which candidate is trusted to tackle climate change, Biden beat Trump by 30 points (59-29).
Those stats are in sync with what the Pew Research Center found in June: "A broad majority of Americans (79 percent) say the more important priority for the country is to develop alternative sources, such as wind and solar; far fewer (20 percent) say the more important energy priority is to expand the production of oil, coal and natural gas. Views on this question are about the same as they were in October 2019."
In the stretch drive to election day, Trump will crank up the hyperbole (Sleepy Joe will destroy the oil industry!), particularly in fossil fuel-producing states like Texas and Pennsylvania, in the hopes of scaring a pivotal share of people to vote red. Granted, he may sway some (and a few Democratic congressional candidates in oil-producing states have tiptoed away from Biden's debate remarks). But other voters - particularly young people - may be more energized by Biden's stated determination to combat climate change.
And, lest we forget, Trump has virtually no credibility outside his cult to score with any of his lies. Marinating in his climate change denial, he's still ranting nonsense about wind turbines "killing all the birds," and about how Biden supposedly would "knock down buildings and build buildings with little tiny small windows" - a twisted reference to Biden's plan to retrofit buildings and make them more energy efficient.
One other thing. Trump owns the most deadly pandemic of the last 100 years - with new record highs in America - yet he's still telling voters that we're "rounding the corner."
Nothing in climate policy that Biden foresees for 2050 can possibly trump the illness, joblessness, and death that the demagogue is sowing in 2020.
Copyright 2020 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at [email protected]