Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) envisions a Green New Deal that rapidly phases out fossil fuels. But on Monday, he said that doesn’t mean coal miners, gas drillers and pipeline builders should expect to take a pay cut.
“All they are trying to do is feed their families,” Sanders said at his CNN town hall Monday night. “We have many, many billions of dollars to go into those communities to help workers get the training … they need to get jobs that will pay them as much or even more.”
Sanders stood out in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary for his opposition to hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technique known as fracking and credited with spurring the American oil and gas boom. He’s made climate change a central theme of his second White House run. In December, before announcing his candidacy, he hosted a town hall on the issue. In February, he co-sponsored the Senate resolution outlining what future Green New Deal legislation should include.
The senator is expected to release some kind of Green New Deal legislation in the coming months.
Providing a so-called “just transition” for fossil fuel workers is central to building the sort of political coalition that will be needed to overcome opposition to a deep-pocketed industry facing an existential threat to its business model. The powerful building trade unions oppose the Green New Deal in part because their members depend on high-wage, unionized jobs in the fossil fuel industry. Wages in the renewable energy business are significantly lower. Few jobs in solar or wind energy are unionized, and the past four decades of withering labor laws make it hard to imagine those industries easily organizing.
That’s why proponents of the Green New Deal say the policy that comes out of their movement requires systemic changes that go beyond simply lowering greenhouse gas emissions. And Sanders’ remark on Monday suggested his forthcoming legislation will include strong federal labor protections.
“This is an issue we cannot run away from,” he said. “The United States of America, under a Sanders presidency, will lead the world in transforming our energy system, create millions of jobs and create a less polluting society.”