After violating a public pledge not to accept fossil fuel money, possible 2020 presidential candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke is warming up to an aggressive environmentalist proposal being pushed by other members of his party.
“Beto is supportive of the concept and how it invests in green jobs, and is looking forward to engaging more on the issue as it continues to develop,” O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans said in a Friday statement to HuffPost.
The Green New Deal refers to a climate change agenda spearheaded by New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The proposal, which still lacks specific details, calls for a rapid transition of the country’s power market to 100 percent renewable energy in just a few years time, and includes other anti-fossil fuel overtures.
“[O’Rourke] is looking forward to engaging more on the issue as it continues to develop,” Evans continued. “As he mentioned while traveling to every county across Texas during his senate campaign, he’s proud to come from a renewable energy producing state that is number one in wind power production, number one in wind power jobs and number one in solar energy potential.”
The statement — which closely echoed Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s support for the “idea” of the Green New Deal — was the latest in O’Rourke’s fluid stance on environmental and energy policy.
O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, became a favorite among national Democrats when he made a failed bid for Republican Ted Cruz’s Senate seat during the 2018 midterms. During that election, the Texas Democrat had to teeter a fine line between appeasing his environmentalist base while not turning off constituents in a state where the fossil fuel industry maintains a large economic presence.
O’Rourke drew plaudits from green energy advocates for signing his name onto a “No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge” in late April. The pledge called on candidates to not accept high-dollar donations from fossil fuel interests. Rules stipulated that signers must agree to “not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, executives, or front groups of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”
However, an investigation uncovered that O’Rouke had broken this oath, accepting a total of $430,000 from executives working in the oil and gas industry. Upon this discovery, the nonprofit group behind the pledge, Oil Change USA, removed his name from the list.
One notable part of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is the establishment of a climate change committee that bars sitting members from accepting fossil fuel donations. Democratic leadership did establish such a committee, but did not include prohibitions on oil and gas donations. If such a committee were formed exactly as Ocasio-Cortez had demanded, O’Rourke would not have been allowed to be a sitting member.
After losing his bid for the Senate, O’Rourke is now being widely considered as a possible 2020 presidential contender. Environmental policy, including the concepts of the Green New Deal, will likely play a large role among Democratic candidates.
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