Buttigieg Explains Why He Flies Private Despite Climate Action Message: 'This is a Very Big Country'

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate, said he flies on private jets despite advocating for action on climate change because the U.S. is a “very big country.”


CNN’s Chris Cuomo told Buttigieg, “Your second-quarter filing says your campaign spent about $300,000 on private flying. You’re going to get the finger shaken at you that you should not be doing that if you’re going to be the green guy.”

“Look, I’m interested in decarbonizing the fuel that goes into air travel. I also don’t believe we’re going to abolish air travel. This is a big country and while I absolutely think we can do more to provide alternatives, like trains, I don’t think that we’re going to solve the question of how to get around the world without air travel. This is the sort of thing that I think we need to look at in a commonsense kind of way,” Buttigieg said at CNN’s climate town hall on Wednesday.

“And the right loves to sink their teeth into anything we say that makes it seem like we’re being unreasonable when actually all we’re saying is there’s got to be a way to make it less carbon-intensive. Sometimes — I took the subway today. Sometimes I fly because this is a very big country and I’m running to be president of the whole country, but look, you know, it involves meeting voters everywhere,” he added.

Buttigieg said the U.S. should do more to provide alternatives to air travel.


“I mean, think about the train system, right, in a country that views itself as the greatest, most modern, the most sophisticated in the world. How is it that we have such an inferior train system when trains are a lot easier to power on a green basis because they run on electricity?” he said. “You know, think what it would mean for areas like the industrial Midwest, where I live if places from Indianapolis to Chicago to South Bend, Detroit, Minneapolis and so on, were just a few hours away from each other by train.”

He continued, “I’m not even asking for Japanese-level trains. Just give me like Italian-level trains and we would be way ahead of where we are right now, but that’s going to require policy choices and investment. And to anybody who says we shouldn’t subsidize trains, they’ve got to stand on their own two feet. Think about just how many ways we subsidize driving, which is among the most carbon-intensive things we could be doing.”


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