Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged Americans not to get distracted by climate arguments over plastic straws and lightbulbs, saying Wednesday that just one group benefits from such outrage campaigns: the fossil fuel industry.
“Oh, come on, give me a break,” Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said during CNN’s Town Hall forum on climate change. “Look, there are a lot of ways that we try to change our energy consumption and our pollution, and God bless all of those ways. Some of it is with lightbulbs, some of it is on straws, some of it, dang, is on cheeseburgers.”
“But understand,” she continued, “this is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we’re all talking about.”
The question came after the Trump administration announced Wednesday that it would weaken federal rules that mandate Americans use more energy-efficient lightbulbs. CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked if the federal government should be responsible for setting such standards, and though Warren agreed lightbulbs were an important part of any climate adaptation strategy, she noted that the move was simply sleight-of-hand by factions opposed to a shift to renewable energy.
“That’s what they want us to talk about,” Warren said, before noting that, in her estimation, the fossil fuel industry wanted to cast the climate fight as “your problem.” She continued: “They want to be able to stir up a lot of controversy around your lightbulbs, around your straws and around your cheeseburgers, when 70% of the pollution, of the carbon that we’re throwing into the air, comes from three industries.”
The industries Warren mentioned are the oil industry, the electric power industry and the building industry, according to The New York Times.
The change in lightbulb efficiency standards is the latest move by President Donald Trump to roll back a slate of sweeping federal rules meant to rein in carbon emissions and tackle climate change. Last week, the White House said it would cut back regulations that limit methane emissions. Plastic straws have also become a flashpoint for some environmentalists in recent months, and a few conservative lawmakers have lambasted proposals like the Green New Deal, saying it would make “American favorites like cheeseburgers … a thing of the past.”
But Warren has long advocated going after the fossil fuel industry for its role in the climate crisis while seeking a swift transition toward renewable energy and net-zero emissions from new vehicles, electricity generation and buildings. On Wednesday, the senator repeated her pledges to help American workers employed in the fossil fuel industry to transition to high-paying, unionized jobs in the new green economy.
“Let me say one more thing about workers, because I don’t want to miss this chance,” Warren said. “Understand we need our smart workers. We need the guys and the gals who have been sitting around for a long time who know how to read plans and they know how to move big equipment and they know how to help us, because we’re going to need to rebuild our infrastructure around this country.”
Warren’s response was hailed by climate scientists and activists watching the town hall, which featured 10 leading Democratic presidential candidates.