Democrats Bernie Sanders Vs. Joe Biden – What Are Their Climate & Electric Vehicle Plans?

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Both Democratic candidates for United States President support the Green New Deal – what does that mean for their plans to address climate change and make it possible for more people to drive an electric vehicle?

As we continue to emit ever-increasing amounts of greenhouse gases year after year, voters in the U.S. are becoming more concerned about climate change. According to 2019 surveys, 57% of Americans consider climate change a major threat to the country’s well-being, up almost 20 points since 2013. 84% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and just over one-quarter of Republicans think climate change is a major threat to the country’s well-being.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a demystifying special report in 2018 with a clear message: we must act quickly to avoid the most catastrophic effects. And while President Obama and other world leaders had made a significant (albeit insufficient) step by signing the Paris Agreement in 2016 – ironically, the agreement entered into force just 4 days before then-candidate Trump was elected – President Trump will have effectively removed the U.S. from the agreement by November of 2020, just in time for the next presidential election.

This brings us to Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. As two of the three remaining Democratic candidates (Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign continues with a mere 2 delegates), Sanders and Biden will face increasing pressure to provide a clear plan of action on climate change. Let’s see how they compare.

Comparing the candidates’ plans for vehicle electrification

Button for EV to electric

How Do The Candidates Stand?

Bernie Sanders

Joe Biden

Transportation decarbonization commitments

Work with schools, transit agencies, cities, states, and private companies to establish standards for auto manufacturing to be 100 percent sustainable by 2030

  • Restore the full electric vehicle tax credit, designed for middle-class consumers and prioritize the purchase of vehicles made in America

  • Develop a new fuel economy standard that goes beyond what the Obama-Biden Administration put in place

  • Ensure 100% of new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles will be electrified

  • Require any federal permitting decision and personnel activity to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions

Plans for electric vehicle charging infrastructure

$85.6 billion building a national, interoperable electric vehicle charging infrastructure network

Support the deployment of more than 500,000 new public charging outlets by the end of 2030.

Plans to decrease the cost to consumers of new electric vehicles

Yes, with $100 billion to decrease the cost of a new electric vehicle to at most $18,000

Yes, with the federal EV tax credit

Plans to decarbonize aviation and shipping

$150 billion effort to fully decarbonize aviation and maritime shipping and transportation

Pursue measures to incentivize the creation of new, sustainable fuels for aircraft, as well as other changes to aircraft technology and standards

Grants to purchase a new EV

$2.09 trillion in grants to low- and moderate-income families and small businesses to trade in their fossil fuel-dependent vehicles for new electric vehicles

Not listed

Plans to electrify and expand school & transit buses and public transportation

  • $407 billion in grants for states to help school districts and transit agencies replace all school and transit buses with electric buses

  • $300 billion investment to increase public transit ridership by 65 percent by 2030

  • $607 billion investment in a regional high-speed rail system 

  • Transform the way we fund local transportation, giving state and local governments, with input from community stakeholders, more flexibility to use any new transportation funds to build safer, cleaner, and more accessible transportation ecosystem

  • Complete the California High Speed Rail project and expand the Northeast Corridor to the fast-growing South. Across the Midwest and the Great West, construct an end-to-end high speed rail system that will connect the coasts

Plans to electrify freight trucks

$216 billion to replace all diesel tractor-trailer trucks with fast-charging and long-range electric trucks.

Make annual improvements for heavy-duty vehicles

Comparing the candidates’ plans to address climate change

How Do The Candidates Stand?

Bernie Sanders

Joe Biden

Plans to reach 100% renewable energy

  • 2030 - electricity and transportation

  • 2050 - complete decarbonization of U.S. economy

2050 - 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions

Number of Green New Deal jobs pledged

20 million

10 million

Public investment to reach decarbonization goals

$16.3 trillion

$1.7 trillion over the next ten years, leveraging additional private sector and state and local investments to total to more than $5 trillion

Plans to curb emissions domestically

  • Declare climate change a national emergency

  • Invest $526 billion to develop a national smart grid

  • R&D investment in energy storage, electric vehicles, and sustainable plastics through advanced chemistry

  • Require public companies to disclose climate risks and the greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains

  • Double offshore wind by 2030

  • Bring new carbon capture technologies to market

  • Invest 4X the initial pledge for Mission Innovation to support R&D in clean energy

Who pays for the decarbonization plan?

  • Fossil fuel industry

  • Revenue from the wholesale of energy produced by the regional Power Marketing Authorities; electricity will be free by 2035

  • Scale back military spending on global oil dependence

  • Tax revenue from the 20 million new green jobs

Modify royalties on carbon to account for climate costs


Plans for advanced energy technologies and innovations? 

$30 billion StorageShot initiative to decrease the cost of energy storage

  • Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-C) focused on climate, targeting technologies like energy storage, small modular nuclear reactors, and zero net energy buildings 

  • Pursue advanced biofuels

Plans and investments in energy efficiency

  • $2.18 trillion in grants for low- and moderate-income families and small businesses to invest in weatherizing and retrofitting their homes and businesses

  • $964 billion in grants for low- and moderate-income families and small businesses to electrify heating and cooling. A federal mandate through the Department of Energy will ensure that all new construction, existing big business commercial buildings, and wealthy homeowners meet electrification goals

  • Reduce the carbon footprint of the U.S. building stock 50% by 2035, creating incentives for retrofits that combine appliance electrification, efficiency, and on-site clean power generation

  • Repair and accelerate the building code process and create a new funding mechanism for states and cities to adopt strict building codes and train builders and inspectors

Plans for land-use and farming changes to decarbonize

  • Help farms of all sizes transition to ecologically regenerative agricultural practices that rebuild rural communities, protect the climate, and strengthen the environment with an investment of $410 billion

  • Pay farmers $160 billion for the soil health improvements they make and for the carbon they sequester

  • $1.48 billion in research to develop new, region-appropriate farming techniques and seeds

  • Invest $1.4 billion in the Rural Energy for America Program for clean energy options

  • Break up big agribusinesses

  • Build the 7.4 million affordable housing units

  • Review regulatory roadblocks to new innovations and invest in climate-friendly farming such as conservation programs for cover crops and other practices aimed at restoring the soil and building soil carbon

  • Support deployment of methane digesters to capture potent climate emissions and generate electricity

  • Altering local regulations to eliminate sprawl and allow for denser, more affordable housing near public transit

  • Conserve 30% of U.S. lands by 2030

  • Permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Plans to help reduce emissions throughout the world

  • Give $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund

  • Rejoin the Paris Agreement

  • Reduce emissions among less industrialized nations by 36% by 2030

  • Recommit to the Green Climate Fund

  • Rejoin the Paris Agreement

  • Convene a climate world summit to engage leaders of the major carbon-emitting nations to persuade them to join the United States in making more ambitious national pledges, above and beyond the commitments they have already made

  • Embrace the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, adding momentum to curbing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

  • Rally a united front of nations to hold China accountable to high environmental standards in its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure projects, so that China can’t outsource pollution to other countries

  • Seek a G20 commitment to end all export finance subsidies of high-carbon projects

  • Offer Belt and Road Initiative countries alternative sources of development financing for lower-carbon energy investments

  • Reform debt repayment priorities for the International Monetary Fund so projects with high carbon impact and high debt costs will go to the end of the line, making them higher risk and more costly

  • Institute a new Global Climate Change Report to hold countries to account for meeting, or failing to meet, their Paris commitments

End fossil fuel financing? 


Yes, including investments through the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, OPIC, the Export-Import Bank, and other multilateral institutions


Yes, ensure the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the Export-Import Bank, and the new U.S. International Development Finance Corporation significantly reduce the carbon footprints of their portfolios. For example, these agencies will be prohibited from any financing for coal-fired power plants so that U.S. finance is no longer a dirtier alternative to the World Bank

Impacts on the fossil fuel industry from decarbonization

  • Raise taxes on corporate polluters and investors in fossil fuels

  • Aggressively enforce penalties on pollution through the Clean Air Act

  • Require fossil fuel companies to buy federal fossil fuel risk bonds to fund relief from oil spills, explosions, or accidents

  • Pursue lawsuits against fossil fuel companies

  • Implement sanctions for violating climate laws

  • End $15 billion annual fossil fuel subsidies

  • End fossil fuel extraction on public land and ban offshore drilling

  • End all new fossil fuel infrastructure permits

  • Repeal Trump’s executive orders that fast-tracked construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines

  • Clean up old/abandoned fossil fuel infrastructure sites

  • Ban imports and exports of fossil fuels

  • Ban fracking and mountaintop removal coal mining

  • Divest federal pensions from fossil fuels

  • Place a fee on imported Carbon Pollution-Intensive Goods

  • Worldwide ban on fossil fuel subsidies

  • Moratorium on off-shore drilling

  • Remove Arctic waters from consideration for oil and gas leasing and work with Arctic Council member nations to extend this moratorium globally

  • Ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters

  • Require aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations

Special funds or proposals to support and prepare disadvantaged frontline communities for the effects of climate change

Climate Justice Resiliency Fund - $40 billion to:

  • Conduct a nationwide survey to identify areas with high climate impact vulnerabilities and other socioeconomic factors, public health challenges, and environmental hazards. Each community will then be eligible for funding in order of most vulnerable to least vulnerable

  • Distribute block grants for climate resiliency projects, building emergency community centers and shelters with reliable backup power, wetland restoration, abandoned fossil fuel infrastructure and other environmental hazard reclamation; seawalls; community relocation; community evacuation plans

  • Establish an Office of Climate Resiliency for People with Disabilities


Ensure that communities harmed by climate change and pollution are the first to benefit from the Clean Economy Revolution. Currently, low-income communities and communities of color don’t equally share in the benefits of well-paying job opportunities that result from our clean energy economy

Plans to support workers displaced by the decline of the fossil fuel industry

  • Spend $1.3 trillion to ensure that workers in the fossil fuel and other carbon-intensive industries receive strong benefits, a living wage, training, and job placement.

  • Protect the right of all workers to form a union without threats or intimidation from management

  • Ensure coal miners and their families receive the pensions and health benefits they have been promised

  • Create a Task Force to help Power Plant communities access federal investments and leverage private sector investments to help create high-paying union jobs, partner with unions and community colleges to create training opportunities for these new jobs, repair infrastructure, keep public employees like firefighters and teachers on the payroll, and keep local hospitals open

Plans for climate change resiliency

  • $162 billion to adapt to sea-level rise

  • Increase funding for fire-fighting by $18 billion

  • Invest $636.1 billion in roads, bridges, and water infrastructure to ensure it is resilient to climate impacts, and another $300 billion to ensure that all new infrastructure built over the next 10 years is also resilient

  • Invest $2 billion to ensure communities that are rebuilt after disasters have necessary resources to build back stronger than before

  • Investments in resilient infrastructure

  • Lower property insurance premiums for homeowners and communities who invest in resilience

  • Create a more integrated energy grid from Mexico through Central America and Colombia

  • Give special focus to the Caribbean and the Northern Triangle of Central America to promote climate change adaptation and resilience

  • Direct the Secretaries of Defense and Energy to identify vulnerabilities in our infrastructure due to climate change, and prioritize upgrades, hardening, and resilience investments to mitigate them

What’s The Verdict?

The most striking difference between the two plans is that Sanders is aiming for 100% renewable energy by 2030 while Biden has a goal of 2050. Additionally, Sanders plans to invest 10 times more public dollars – at $16.3 trillion – to decarbonize the U.S. economy.

In terms of vehicle electrification, Sanders has a clearer vision with the goal of full electrification by 2030 by investing large amounts in charging infrastructure and lowering the cost of new EVs. Biden, on the other hand, has centered his vehicle electrification plan around the federal EV tax credit and building 500,000 new public charging stations by 2030.

The Trump Administration has acted decisively to cut environmental regulations, deny climate change, and reduce emissions standards. A President Sanders or President Biden would offer strikingly different rhetoric, leadership, and policy on climate change and electric vehicles than Trump. If Democrats manage to win in November – regardless of whether it’s Sanders or Biden – the federal government will rely heavily on partnerships and innovations from state and local governments, OEMs, electric utilities, and charging network service providers to reach its decarbonization and vehicle transportation goals.

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