Former Vice President Al Gore spoke with President Joe Biden to plead that climate-change initiatives not be scaled back in a potential bipartisan infrastructure deal, the Washington Post reported Thursday night.
Gore phoned Biden last month to insist on the inclusion of climate policies after being encouraged to do so by John Podesta, former chair of the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, Post sources said.
Some Democrats are growing increasingly concerned that climate-change initiatives will suffer as a result of Biden seeking Republican support for his next major spending package.
A bipartisan group of centrist senators announced they had reached a deal on infrastructure Thursday, though contents of the agreement have not become public.
"The President has underscored that climate change is one of the defining crises we face as a nation, and in the negotiations he and his team have continuously fought for leading on the clean energy economy and on clean energy jobs," White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.
The Post said Gore also spoke with Biden aide Steve Ricchetti this week about climate and infrastructure, according to a separate Post source. The call between Gore and Ricchetti ended on a positive note, according to a White House official.
Biden’s infrastructure plan proposed roughly $1 trillion in climate-related measures, though Republicans have rejected many of the suggestions. The president has expressed an openness to work with the GOP and amend his initial proposal.
"Everyone I talk to in the White House is worried that there is a very powerful contingent in the president’s ear that does actually want the compromise," one liberal economist in close communication with several senior White House officials told the Post.
The Biden-proposed measures included clean energy tax credits, support for electric vehicles and their charging infrastructure, research into breakthrough green technologies, and a new jobs program to restore public lands and plug abandoned oil and gas wells, according to the Post.
The Post said Gore specifically pleaded with Biden to stop the planned Byhalia Pipeline, which would transport crude oil for export through predominantly Black neighborhoods in southwest Memphis.
Gore spokeswoman Fae Jencks said via email that the former vice president "isn’t going to comment on private conversations with the President." Podesta could not be reached by the Post for comment.
News of Gore reaching out to Biden came as the president was in Europe, where he was pressing world leaders to curb the globe’s carbon output. Independent analyses say that without the funding and incentives Biden has outlined in his infrastructure bill, the U.S. is unlikely to meet its pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.
Biden administration members are frustrated, the Post said, because some economic aides from more-liberal circles largely are left out of the most important decisions on infrastructure negotiations with Congress, three sources told the newspaper.
Climate change has been a top priority of the left for a long time, with experts warning the world will face catastrophe if it waits to decarbonize the economy.
The Obama administration, which set ambitious climate targets, failed to pass legislation with its congressional majorities. There’s no telling when Democrats, who currently control the executive branch and both chambers of Congress, again will hold congressional majorities to push through major legislation.
Biden often has highlighted the need to make major clean energy investments, and the White House has pointed to a lack of climate-related funding in rejecting the infrastructure proposals floated by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who has been leading the group of GOP senators working on an agreement.
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