Mandela Barnes, the Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate, said in 2015 that he believes "oil is destroying the world"—an apocalyptic claim that conflicts with his more recent campaign promise to try to make gas more affordable for consumers.
"Oil is destroying the world in every possible way," Barnes, Wisconsin's lieutenant governor, said on Twitter in 2015.
The remark is the latest evidence of Barnes's extreme opposition to domestic energy production, which he has attempted to soften on the campaign trail. The news comes as Democratic leaders have struggled with political fallout from rising energy prices, after years of demonizing and blocking domestic oil and gas projects.
Since launching his campaign, Barnes has emphasized his support for renewable energy and transitioning away from fossil fuels while also saying he wants to "lower gas prices" for consumers.
"What we need to do is reduce carbon emissions. What we also need to do is move towards a clean energy economy and make sure Wisconsin is in the driver's seat," Barnes during a debate.
The Barnes campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Before running for Senate, Barnes took a more vocal and aggressive stance against domestic energy use.
In 2019, he told a panel at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Spain that he opposed any "new pipeline construction," including the expansion of Enbridge Line 5, northern Wisconsin's primary oil and gas line, because residents would "use it." The pipeline is the major heating and power source for northern Wisconsin, where temperatures often fall to 40 degrees below zero.
"We also shouldn't be in a place where we're even encouraging new pipeline construction," said Barnes in a video of the event obtained from the U.N. archive by the Washington Free Beacon. "Because if the infrastructure is there, then people are going to use it."
During the same event, Barnes also claimed that climate change is caused by "capitalism"—and said the solution to the climate crisis "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.
As lieutenant governor, Barnes also 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. In addition, the administration in which he serves proposed a gas tax hike.