A tale of two climate plans: Biden borrows coal industry language, Warren responds to Green New Deal

The former vice president has been criticized as insufficiently progressive on the issue of fighting climate change

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published June 5, 2019 9:50AM (EDT)

Joe Biden; Elizabeth Warren (Getty/AP/Salon)
Joe Biden; Elizabeth Warren (Getty/AP/Salon)

It's a tale of two very different Democratic climate change plans: Former Vice President Joe Biden's new plan includes coal industry talking points, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren's new plan channels the spirit of the Green New Deal.

Biden's 2020 presidential campaign immediately faced controversy after language from his climate change and education policy proposals was found to be unusually similar to that in other sources. The Washington Post reports:

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign lifted language without credit, at times word for word, when crafting its education and climate plans, incidents the campaign acknowledged and said were inadvertent.

The incidents appeared to be staff errors when detailing Biden’s policies, and they underscored how hastily his campaign was attempting to put out specific proposals. But the issue was a particularly sensitive one for Biden, whose 1988 campaign was derailed after he plagiarized, in speeches, rhetoric used by British politician Neil Kinnock.

Staffers from Biden's campaign claim they unintentionally used language that was very similar to those of its sources or included information without the necessary attribution. This included information pulled from a coal industry source for his environmental plan and a sentence that appeared verbatim from the XQ Institute, an education policy journal.

The parallels between Biden's language and that of a coal industry group are particularly noteworthy, given how the former vice president has been criticized as insufficiently progressive on the issue of combatting climate change. CREDO's Josh Nelson drew attention to this Tuesday, when he studied Biden's climate change plan and discovered the language about carbon capture sequestration seemed to mirror that used by the Carbon Capture Coalition, a group which includes Arch Coal, Peabody Energy and Shell. The parallel language included both the Biden campaign and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions’ Carbon Capture Coalition describing the technology as a "widely available, cost-effective and rapidly scalable solution to reduce carbon emissions to meet mid-century climate goals."

As Biden's campaign faces controversy over its climate change plan, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., flexed her policy muscles again to roll out a new policy, which responds to the challenges set forth by the Green New Deal, a resolution which she co-sponsored in Congress. Her proposal, released on the same day as Biden, would spend $2 trillion overall, including $150 billion annually over a decade on developing technology that reduces America's carbon footprint, spending $100 billion on a so-called Green Marshall Plan to help poorer countries deal with the rise in global temperatures and decoupling funding into clean energy research.

In an article on Medium, Warren explained, "The climate crisis demands immediate and bold action. Like we have before, we should bank on American ingenuity and American workers to lead the global effort to face down this threat — and create more than a million good jobs here at home."

The Democratic presidential candidate who has made combatting climate change the centerpiece of his campaign is Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who spoke with Salon last month about the potential apocalypse around the corner.

"Yes, we are facing the conclusion of a place to live that would be recognizable, and what year or decade that actually becomes the cliff is unknown, but it is out there and we are now facing very severe damage already today," Inslee told Salon. "This is not an issue of tomorrow. This is an issue of damage and pain today, and I've seen that from the people whose homes burned down in Seminole Springs, California, to the people whose nonprofits were flooded in Davenport, California."

He added, "So I think one of the points I'd like to make is that yes, there is an apocalypse out there where things become unrecognizable to us. But this is about our injury today and that's one of the reasons that people are recognizing the necessity of action today. It's one of the reasons why people in their polling have said this is now a top issue for them as it is with Democrats in Iowa, and it's one of the reasons we've had a surge of support for my candidacy since I announced what is the most substantive, robust and comprehensive energy plan, I think clearly of anyone in the field."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012, was a guest on Fox Business in 2019, repeatedly warned of Trump's impending refusal to concede during the 2020 election, spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2021, was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022 and appeared on NPR in 2023. His diverse interests are reflected in his interviews including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), director Jason Reitman ("The Front Runner"), inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), seismologist John Vidale, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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