Mandela Barnes, the Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate, told climate activists in 2019 that he opposes any "new pipeline construction," including the expansion of northern Wisconsin’s primary oil and gas line, because "if the infrastructure is there, then people are going to use it."
The comments came when Barnes, speaking as Wisconsin's lieutenant governor, appeared at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Spain, according to video from the U.N. archives obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
"We also shouldn’t be in a place where we’re even encouraging new pipeline construction," said Barnes. "Because if the infrastructure is there, then people are going to use it."
Barnes’s opposition to pipeline construction could become an issue for his campaign, amid high inflation and warnings from Treasury secretary Janet Yellen that energy prices could spike again later this year. The Democrat, who is running against Republican senator Ron Johnson, said he also opposes the Enbridge Line 5, which provides heat and power to northern Wisconsin and is a major source of jobs and state revenue.
"There is a pipeline that would be running through the [Upper Peninsula of Michigan] that would go into Wisconsin, as well, that we should have a very real discussion about. We know the damage that pipelines have the potential to cause," said Barnes.
Barnes did not respond to a request for comment.
The Sierra Club and other climate activists say the pipeline is environmentally harmful and are lobbying to shut it down through legal challenges and state government interventions. Enbridge is working to relocate a portion of the line that ran through a contested area in an Indian reservation.
Barnes said his administration—led by Democratic governor Tony Evers, who is locked in a tight reelection race—quietly works with local officials across the state to hinder energy policies from the Republican-controlled state legislature.
"We’re looking to use our local government in lieu of our state legislature," said Barnes. "The same way states are acting where the federal government won’t, we have mayors in cities all across Wisconsin, county executives in counties all across Wisconsin who have already engaged in the work. And we’re there to support them."
The Free Beacon published another unearthed video earlier this week of Barnes giving a scathing critique of capitalism at the same climate conference. His comments were first reported by Empower Wisconsin in 2020.
Barnes said the solution to climate change "is to stymie capitalism the way it is in America."
"How greedy can humanity be? The reason why we’re in this mess is the pursuit of greed. It’s capitalism run amok, that’s why we’re in this predicament now," said Barnes.
Barnes has backed progressive energy policies throughout his political career and praised the Biden administration last year for revoking permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. As lieutenant governor, he led a commission on climate change that proposed divesting state pension funds from fossil fuels, instituting a carbon tax, and requiring schools to teach a racially focused climate justice curriculum.