Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden answered in the affirmative on Thursday when asked whether he would be willing to sacrifice economic growth and blue-collar jobs in the oil and gas industries in favor of clean energy.
“The answer is yes,” the former vice president reponded to Politico’s Tim Alberta, who moderated Thursday night’s sixth Democratic presidential primary debate in Los Angeles.
Alberta noted that the U.S. has seen several “stints of explosive economic growth due to a boom in oil and natural gas production” and asked Biden whether transitioning to a green economy was worth losing some economic growth as well as displacing “maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers.”
“The opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs … is real,” Biden responded. “There are so many things we can do, and we have to make sure we explain it to those people who are displaced that their skills are going to be needed for the new opportunities.”
Biden listed some of the steps he would take to move in the direction of a green economy, including making sure every new building is “energy contained” or doesn’t leak energy, and providing tax credits for people to transition their their homes to solar power.
“Right here in California, we’re now on the verge of having batteries that are about the size of the top of this podium that you can store energy when in fact the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. We have enormous opportunities,” Biden said.
“For example, we shouldn’t build another new highway in America that doesn’t have charging stations on it,” the former vice president continued. “We have an opportunity to put 550,000 charging stations so that we own the electrical vehicle market, creating millions of jobs for people installing them.”
Biden, currently the the front-runner in the Democratic primary race, has previously expressed willingness to ban fossil fuels, saying in September that “we’ve got to shut down” all coal-fueled power plants.
His remarks during the debate were quickly panned by Republicans, who noted that they echoed Hillary Clinton’s comment during the 2016 election cycle that, “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”