The rules that Trump gutted have also saved Americans nearly $500 billion at the pump, according to the nonpartisan Consumer Federation of America. His administration no longer argues that the rollback will save much money for anyone but oil companies and some carmakers. But Trump’s relationship with the truth is so casual that he defended the policy to the public anyway, citing arguments that were discredited by experts who at least nominally serve under him.
His other lapse happened a few minutes later. As Biden explained his own approach to climate policy, Trump cut in, accusing Biden of supporting the Green New Deal. Such a policy, Trump alleged, would cost $100 trillion.
It was a ham-handed attack. Biden does not support the Green New Deal, though he has praised it in limited terms since the primary, saying that he admires its link between the climate and the economy. But the truth is that no Democrat has ever supported a $100 trillion Green New Deal: Even Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who popularized the idea, has only ever sought a $10 trillion package. The sole person who has ever claimed that a Green New Deal would cost $100 trillion is Brian Riedl, a Republican and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.
Biden slightly muffled his reply, saying that the Green New Deal would not cost $100 trillion before clarifying that the Green New Deal was “not my plan.” But Trump ignored the opening, announcing to the room that Biden’s rejection of the Green New Deal had just lost him the left. The president reiterated the point on Twitter earlier today.
To actual leftists, Biden’s rejection of the Green New Deal is no surprise: The Democratic Party just had a whole primary about it, and the more moderate candidate won. It’s been clear for months that Biden has been desperate to distance himself from any policy such as the Green New Deal that could be construed as anti-fracking, considering the large fracking industry in Pennslyvania, a key swing state. But Trump seemed so captured by a falsehood regularly repeated in the conservative media—that Biden has been commandeered by his party’s left wing—that he seemed to have forgotten about Biden’s actual positions.
But Trump got Biden to reject such a policy, publicly, on prime-time television, then celebrated it as some kind of coalition-dividing masterstroke. Meanwhile, Biden’s actual climate policy—a nearly $2 trillion infrastructure and investment package, which would be by far the most ambitious and expensive climate bill ever passed in the United States—looked like the picture of moderation.
Read: So has the Green New Deal won yet?
As a topic, climate change encapsulates Trump’s failures. He struggles to understand that facts exist independent of whether they help or hurt him politically. Asked whether he “believes” human pollution contributes to climate change, Trump replied: “I think a lot of things do, but I think to an extent, yes—I think to an extent, yes, but I also think we have to do better management of our forest.” He could not address the deeper question—do humans cause climate change?—without immediately bickering about the cause of the California wildfires. In the meantime, he showed that he does not understand climate science. Virtually all scientists say that human activity, such as greenhouse-gas pollution, causes the modern warming that we’ve observed.