Joe Biden's environmental donors

Welcome to HEATED, a Monday through Thursday e-mail newsletter devoted to original reporting and analysis on the climate crisis.

Today’s edition is about Joe Biden. And I know you might be thinking, Emily no, you already did a Joe Biden issue, please talk about literally anyone else on the planet. And I get that. That’s fair.

But a poll released this morning shows that Biden is still the favorite presidential candidate of climate-conscious Democratic primary voters. Also, a tipster sent me a whole bunch of Biden fundraising invitations for the month of October, which list the names of several rich people who do environment- and climate-related work. So I figured, if climate voters prefer the former vice president, they might also like to know which rich climate people are banking on Biden, too. Right?

Right. Now, here’s an unrelated climate change/Lizzo meme—

An Inconvenient Truth Hurts...? @lizzobeeating
October 7, 2019

—and let’s get to it.

The preferred choice of “climate voters”

Since June, the Sierra Club has been working with Morning Consult to produce polls about “climate voters”—aka, Democratic primary voters who say candidates’ climate plans are a “very important” factor in their choice about who to vote for.

Biden has been climate voters’ top candidate in every poll so far. And Tuesday’s poll was no different, as the chart below shows.

Biden’s lead has, however, been slowly narrowing—and Elizabeth Warren has been picking up steam. Since the last poll was conducted in late August, the senator from Massachusetts has risen 10 percentage points among climate voters, and Biden has fallen by 6 percentage points. Warren is now in second place. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is in third.

These are interesting results, considering Biden’s plan to tackle the climate crisis isn’t as aggressive as some of his lower-ranking rivals. The environmental group Greenpeace ranks Biden’s $1.7 trillion proposal to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as the sixth best Democratic presidential candidate climate plan. Sanders’ $16 trillion plan to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050 ranks first; Warren’s $3 trillion plan to achieve 100 percent zero-emission electric generation by 2035 ranks second.

But it also makes sense, because these “climate voters” aren’t just basing their candidate choice on climate plans. They’re saying climate plans are a “very important” factor in their decision-making. Indeed, the Sierra Club/Morning Consult poll notes, “climate voters” now represent 62 percent of all Democratic primary voters. That’s a 6 percent increase since June.

That being said, 76 percent of climate voters said they would consider changing their vote if another Democratic candidate released a “more ambitious” plan in the future. Only 7 percent said they would not consider changing their vote.

Who’s banking on Biden’s plan?

As I was going through the names on these Biden fundraiser invitations for October, I was surprised to see not only a lot of rich environmental people, but a lot of different types of rich environmental people.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are a few of the people I saw listed:

  • “Passionately centrist” biofuels guy Wade Randlett. Randlett was on the host committee for Biden’s October 3 fundraiser in Palo Alto, California. He’s a well-known former Obama campaign bundler and founder of the Bay Area Democrats. Randlett is also the CEO of the transportation fuels division of General Biofuels, an international company that produces and sells primarily wood-based biofuels. Here is a paragraph I read about Randlett in a 2001 book called How to Hack a Party Line: The Democrats and Silicon Valley:

  • Climate resilience guru Judith Rodin. Rodin was the president of the Rockefeller Foundation until 2017, and was on the host committee for another Biden fundraiser on October 3, this one in San Francisco. During her tenure, the Rockefeller Foundation invested about a half billion in resilience programs, including the 100 Resilient Cities initiative. It was the largest privately funded climate-adaptation program in the U.S.—until the Foundation’s new president disbanded it earlier this year. You can read more about that in this great CityLab article.

  • Energy attorney/low-key fossil fuel advocate Jeremiah Hallisey. Hallisey owns the law firm Hallisey & Johnson, and was on the host committee for Biden’s San Francisco fundraiser on the 3rd. Hallisey also serves on the board of directors for the Power Association of Northern California, a nonprofit that promotes “a greater understanding of the power industry in California.” Its sponsors include NRG Energy, Shell, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

  • Civil rights attorney/high-key coastal protection advocate Joe Cotchett. Cotchett is a partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, who is known for suing big corporate entities and Wall Street executives and winning multi-million dollars verdicts against them. On the side, though, Cotchett is an advocate for keeping coastlines pristine; he co-wrote a book called The Coast Time Forgot, a historic guide to the San Mateo County coast. He’s said his proudest victories as a lawyer have been environmental cases, like when he stopped a Silicon Valley billionaire from blocking public access to a Northern California beach.

What do you think about all that, climate voter?

Let me know, and we’ll put some responses in tomorrow’s issue:

That’s all for today—thanks for reading HEATED!

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