Hillary Clinton fielded a question about whether she supports fracking in Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate.
Here’s her equivocal answer and a rebuttal:
You will never hear her say on a debate stage “I support fracking, let’s frack more.” That’s because hundreds of families harmed by fracking have spoken out about water and air contamination. The anti-fracking movement is one the fastest growing grassroots movements in the country. The word “fracking” has become as politically toxic as the practice itself.
Hillary Clinton can’t say she supports fracking, but she does. It’s on her website: see “Hillary Clinton Plan for Ensuring Safe and Responsible Natural Gas Production.”
I’m wondering if Hillary’s team edited this or if they just copied and pasted the industry’s talking points directly:
Domestically produced natural gas can play an important role in the transition to a clean energy economy, creating good paying jobs and careers, lowering energy costs for American families and businesses, and reducing air pollution that disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color.
Hillary Clinton has tried to distance herself from the large sums of money she takes from the fossil fuel industry, but their influence over her energy policy could not be more apparent:
Natural gas can play an important role in the transition to a clean energy economy.
Maybe while she was courting fracking financiers in Philadelphia she missed the massive leak at Porter Ranch, where for over 100 days a natural gas storage facility sent a geyser of potent greenhouse gas into the air. Thousands of families were forced to relocate.
Aliso Canyon isn’t alone. The entire fracking process from extraction to delivery is leaking scary amounts of methane, which 20 years after release is 86-times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. A new Harvard study found that during the fracking boom the U.S. saw a 30% spike in methane emissions.
Research by Cornell University’s Robert Howarth has shown that over its whole lifecycle, production, distribution and burning of shale gas actually produces more greenhouse gases than coal or oil. When it comes to the climate, natural gas is not a bridge, it’s a gangplank that leads to drowning.
Maybe if Hillary had met with Randy Moyers in Altoona, Pennsylvania on her trip to the Keystone state, she wouldn’t claim fracking is:
creating good paying jobs and careers.
While working as a trucker for the industry, Randy was exposed to the toxic chemicals in fracking wastewater. He got rashes all over his body. His tongue swelled so much his family had to call an ambulance. He has peripheral neuropathy that will prevent him from ever driving a truck again, and he can barely do any of the activities he used to do with his son.
Randy’s not alone. The fatality rate for workers in the oil and gas industry is seven times higher than the national average. Why does Hillary Clinton tout those jobs when wind and solar could generate millions of good-paying jobs?
But the statement on Hillary’s website that really flies in the face of science and public health concern has to be this one:
Reducing air pollution that disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color.
Hillary Clinton needs to take a trip to Kern County, California where children are playing in schools playground surrounded by fracking wells. She has gone to Flint, but why hasn’t she gone to Dimock, Pennsylvania where families have been without clean water since 2008?
Yes, we definitely need to shut down coal fired power plants that are so often sited in low-income communities and communities of color. But replacing with them fracked gas-fired power plants is no better. These communities have some of the worst air in the country because they have been forced to accept coal-fired plants. They need environmental justice and they need it yesterday. But using this racially charged issue to justify fracked gas is beyond cynical; it’s an extension of the injustice these communities have faced for decades. It would take them out of the coal-fired frying pan and put them into the fracked-gas fire.
Here’s what Hillary needs to do to put her actual policy positions, as stated on her website, in line with what she said Sunday night:
I do not support fracking because:
- It has been proven to contaminate ground water at unacceptable rates nationwide
- It worsens climate change — it is the worst fuel we can develop with respect to global warming and greenhouse gas emissions
- It cannot be done safely — the industry has never submitted to or passed any adequate safety test
- Companies are not currently required to disclose chemicals — that would take an act of congress, until such an act passes I cannot support it
- There is no regulatory mechanism in the USA that is currently strong enough to adequately police oil and gas
- It has been banned in my home state of New York because of proven negative health effects and environmental damage. If it’s not good enough for New York, it’s not good enough for me
Let’s hope that she can reject the path being paved for her by fossil fuel industry money. Let’s hope that she can see that there’s climate cliff in front of her, and that real climate leaders know there’s only one way forward, 100% renewable energy.
Luckily for fracktivists there is a presidential candidate who does forthrightly support a ban on fracking for the above reasons: Bernie Sanders.
Josh Fox’s new film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change premieres in the U.S. on April 20.