The Democratic National Committee Just Walked Back Its Rejection of Fossil Fuels

It was a promising start, but after just two months, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has officially walked back its recent rejection of fossil fuel donations.

In June, the DNC made a revolutionary decision that was a long time coming. Its members voted unanimously to ban financial contributions from the fossil fuel industry.


“This is going to be the way that we ask people to make some clear choices, so voters know what they’re getting,” said Christine Pelosi, a member of the DNC Executive Committee who proposed the resolution.

“When you talk the talk and walk the walk, that’s how you’re going to inspire people.”

But despite the fact that the resolution received full support from DNC members, something inexplicable appears to have changed, and it’s coming from the very top. The proposal to reverse this landmark resolution was made by none other than Tom Perez, the DNC chairman himself.

According to The Huffington Post, which broke the story on Friday, Perez would like to make it clear that the party “support[s] fossil fuel workers,” appreciates their “longstanding and generous contributions” and would like to continue receiving money from them “individually or through their unions’ or employers’ political action committees.”

Shortly after the story broke, the DNC quietly voted to reverse the two-month old resolution. Only two members stood against Perez. Huffington Post reporter Alex Kaufman tweeted the results and an explanation from the DNC.

“After hearing concerns from Labor that this was an attack on workers, this resolution acknowledges the generous contributions of workers, including those in energy, who organize and donate to Democratic candidates.”

The DNC is selling this as a fight for union workers, but as some have pointed out, only 4 percent of workers in the mining sector, including coal, oil and gas, were part of a union as of 2017.

A DNC spokesperson told The Huffington Post in an evasive and mysterious answer that the resolution was “not a reversal.” That’s it. There is no further explanation so far. As such, the media has been left guessing.


Kate Aronoff, a contributing writer at The Intercept, thinks the order came from outside the DNC.

“My hunch would be that this came from (among others) higher-ups at the [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers], which has donated $305K to the DNC this cycle,” she tweeted.

The details are still unclear, because the DNC is being very secretive about this, but the leading theory is that the new proposal only applies to campaigns. Even still, critics see this as undermining the entire point of divesting from fossil fuels in the first place.

“I am furious that the DNC would effectively undo a resolution passed just two months ago just as the movement to ban fossil fuel corporate PAC money is growing (and Democrats are winning),” R.L. Miller, a co-sponsor of the original resolution, told The Huffington Post.

“Smart Democrats are very good at splitting hairs and nitpicking,” Miller added. “It’s trying to manufacture distinctions out of whole cloth.”

Environmentalists are more than disappointed by the news. Bill McKibben, the co-founder of, had this to say:

When Democrats decided on their platform in 2016, they removed the old commitment to an “all-of-the-above” energy policy and said instead that “We believe that America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century.” It would be strikingly odd to go back to the old formulation at precisely the moment that heatwaves and wildfires are waking ever more Americans to the danger of climate change.


Others who identify with Democratic party values are also speaking out against the news, and clarifying their individual positions on climate change.

Cynthia Nixon, who is running for Governor of New York, tweeted, “You can’t do right when you’re getting donations from companies that do wrong.”

In the 2016 election, the Republican party received nearly 90 percent of oil and gas contributions and 97 percent of coal donations.

This year, ahead of the midterms and during some of the worst wildfires in California’s history, the DNC had an opportunity to set themselves apart and give the majority of Americans that accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change an easy choice.

Now, that advantage appears to be lost.

Science AF is ScienceAlert’s new editorial section where we explore society’s most complex problems using science, sanity and humor.


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