Val Demings Distances Herself From Anti-Drilling Policies She Once Championed

Florida congresswoman cosponsored $10 trillion THRIVE Agenda, which would curtail U.S. oil production

Rep. Val Demings (D., Fla.) / Getty Images
March 29, 2022

After Florida gas prices topped record highs, Sunshine State congresswoman Val Demings distanced herself from liberal environmental policies she supported just a year and a half ago that would curtail oil drilling in the United States.

Asked Sunday about her support for the Green New Deal and whether the Biden administration's "clean energy" policies are "to blame for these soaring gas prices," Demings said she does "not support the Green New Deal" and accused her opponent, Republican senator Marco Rubio, of "playing politics." In September 2020, however, Demings cosponsored the THRIVE Agenda, a $10 trillion liberal environmental bill pushed by the Green New Deal Network. The legislation calls for a carbon-free electric grid by 2035 and ensures federal funds allocated through the bill "do not expand fossil fuel infrastructure."

Demings's attempt to distance herself from Democrats' anti-oil policies comes as Florida experiences sky-high prices at the pump. In early March, gas prices in the state surged to an average of $4.38 a gallon, the highest level in Florida history. But Demings has refused to blame the trend on her party's energy agenda—on Sunday, she instead said gas prices have increased due to oil companies "who take advantage of crisis situations like the one we are in to drive up costs as opposed to reducing it."

Demings also refused during her Sunday interview to call for increased oil production in the United States, a position Rubio regularly promotes. Under former president Donald Trump, the United States became a net annual petroleum exporter for the first time in more than 70 years. That status has shifted under President Joe Biden, with the United States set to again become a net oil importer in 2022. The reversal comes after Demings's House Democratic colleagues pressured oil executives to decrease production due to climate change.

Demings promoted her support for the THRIVE Agenda in a September 2020 press release, which says the bill will "transform our country and future" through "a new, clean economy." The release includes a quote from Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), who co-authored the Green New Deal with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.). The release also touts the Green New Deal Network's backing of the bill and quotes Sunrise Movement cofounder Varshini Prakash, who said the THRIVE Agenda "delivers a clear mandate for the next administration and Congress to get started on a Green New Deal."

In addition to the THRIVE Agenda's anti-oil provisions, the bill calls for trillions of dollars in public spending to achieve "real full employment" and "reshape our society" through government jobs. Demings's support for the legislation likely helped her gain the support of the League of Conservation Voters, a liberal environmental group that backs the Green New Deal. The group also joined a coalition that sued the Trump administration in an attempt to maintain an Obama-era offshore drilling ban. Demings has received more than $12,000 from the League of Conservation Voters and fellow liberal environmental group Sierra Club since 2012.

Demings's campaign communications director Christian Slater told the Free Beacon Demings "does not support the Green New Deal." He did not answer questions on whether Demings still supports the THRIVE Agenda and whether she would like to see Biden increase U.S. oil production.

While Demings is not the only Democrat running to unseat Rubio, she is widely expected to take on the Republican in November. Demings has raised nearly $21 million as of Jan. 1, and none of her primary opponents have raised more than $1 million. During her Sunday interview with Bay News 9, Demings said Rubio is "struggling with his reelection" and is "willing to say anything" as a result. According to a February University of North Florida poll, however, Rubio leads Demings by a commanding 12 points.