The day after Joe Biden participates in CNN’s climate forum in New York, the former vice president will head to a high-dollar fundraiser co-hosted by a founder of a fossil fuel company.
Andrew Goldman, a co-founder of Western LNG, a natural gas production company based in Houston, Texas, is co-hosting one of two high-dollar fundraisers Biden will attend in New York on Thursday. Western’s major project is a floating production facility off the northern coast of British Columbia designed to provide Canadian gas to markets in northeast Asia.
Goldman and Biden have deep ties: Goldman served as an adviser to Biden while he was in the Senate and was the northeast director of finance for Biden’s 2008 campaign. He’s also an executive at the investment banking firm Hildred Capital Partners. He and his partner at the firm, David Solomon, along with their wives Renee and Sarah, will host a private fundraiser for Biden at the Solomon house, CNBC reported. Goldman also co-founded De Cordova Goldman Capital Management, which invested in “natural resources and energy.”
According to the company’s website, Western deploys “innovative floating liquefaction technology at inland locations, specifically those that have existing pipeline access to natural gas basins.” The group says it’s “opening up markets for these resources, which are stranded behind burgeoning shale production.”
Biden’s climate plan sets a goal of getting the United States to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The plan cites human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels — like natural gas — as contributing to the greenhouse gas effect, exacerbating climate events, and playing a part in an overall increase in global temperature. Biden initially had proposed a “middle ground” on climate policy. His climate policy adviser, Heather Zichal, meanwhile, made more than a million dollars from a natural gas firm after leaving the Obama administration.
Neither Biden nor Western immediately responded to a request for comment.
Scientists say that a recent increase in the amount of methane — a greenhouse gas more than 30 times stronger than carbon dioxide as far as trapping heat — in Earth’s atmosphere has taken place at the same time that the fracking industry has taken off in the U.S. While an increase in natural gas has coincided with a decrease in reliance on coal-powered plants, scientists still say that an electricity grid based on natural gas will continue to make the planet hotter, and ultimately won’t do anything to head off the ongoing climate emergency.
Most new oil and natural gas wells in the U.S. are hydraulically fractured: a process that blasts chemical fluid into deep-rock formations to create fractures that make it easier to access gas and crude oil. Unless otherwise halted, natural gas is projected to provide the majority of electricity in the U.S. by 2050, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization. Natural gas currently provides about 35 percent of electricity generated in the U.S.
The rapid expansion of fracking over the past two decades has caused a drastic drop in prices in some parts of the country — but a shortage in others due to a lack of pipelines to transport it — making it more cost-competitive as compared to other energy resources. But some regions of the country have so much excess gas, some of which is produced as a byproduct of oil drilling, that they’re burning it. That itself releases carbon dioxide, but the process of fracking leaks methane gas. Fracking also requires enormous amounts of water; the U.S. Geological Survey estimates between 1.5 million to 16 million gallons per well.
Renewable energy standards will be among the topics the 10 Democratic presidential candidates will discuss during the seven-hour climate-focused forum on Wednesday evening. Only candidates who qualified for the third round of Democratic primary debates will participate: Biden; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; Andrew Yang; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke; and Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Each individual candidate will have around 40 minutes to engage in a town hall-style discussion with CNN moderators and a live audience.
Sanders called for a complete ban on fracking Wednesday afternoon, imploring all other candidates to join him in the proposal he outlined earlier as part of his version of a Green New Deal plan, which builds on the resolution introduced by Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in April.
The Democratic National Committee determined last month not to host a debate focused solely on climate change, despite a series of protests around the country led in part by youth activists with the Sunrise Movement.
Update: September 4, 2019
Biden was asked about the fundraiser during the CNN climate town hall, and initially denied that Goldman is a fossil fuel executive. Anderson Cooper followed up to let him know that Goldman was a co-founder of Western LNG, and Biden said he would look into it. Later in the forum, Cooper clarified to Biden that he had been told Goldman doesn’t have “day-to-day” responsibilities at the firm. Biden said that he was told by staff that Goldman “did not have any responsibility related to the company, but if that turns out to be true, then I will not in any way accept his help.”
After the forum, Symone Sanders, a Biden spokesperson, dug in, insisting that Goldman is not really involved with the firm he co-founded. But Splinter News dug up a Canadian filing from last year that asks, “Please briefly identify the other senior management personnel involved with Western.”
The answer: “Western is managed by a seasoned team of executives experienced in the LNG and related energy infrastructure industries. Western’s co-founder is Andrew Goldman, Chief Investment Officer of Hildred Capital Partners. He is a long-term investor in the liquefied natural gas sector.” An industry press release from 2018 also speaks about Goldman as having a present-tense role in the company and describes him as “a long-term investor in the liquified natural gas sector.” He’s also the second person listed under “leadership” on Western’s site.