A new ad for the Bernie Sanders campaign proclaims, “Bernie Sanders is the only candidate for President who opposes fracking everywhere.”
This is true, which only goes to show how politically marginalized the “ban fracking” position is in both the Republican and Democratic parties. A ban on fracking, after all, doesn’t square with Sen. Sanders’ proclaimed goals of fighting climate change and alleviating poverty.
Fracking advances causes “dear to most liberals’ hearts”
A New York Times column this week, by Gary Sernovitz, should alleviate any lingering doubt anyone might have about the environmental and poverty reducing benefits of fracking. The column is worth quoting at length:
“The American shale revolution has advanced three causes dear to most liberals’ hearts. First, fracking has allowed America to lead the world in carbon-emissions reduction. Natural gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal to generate the same amount of electricity, and the unleashing of gas from shale reservoirs has led in the last decade to a 40 percent rise in gas production in the United States and a 70 percent fall in prices.”
“Second, fracking fights poverty and reduces inequality. In the United States, personal expenditures on energy dropped 16 percent in 2015 because of falling oil and gas prices. Lower energy prices are even more important in poorer nations, where consumers spend a higher percentage of gross domestic product on energy than richer ones. Lower fossil fuel prices are joining plummeting renewable costs in providing cheap energy to the world on all fronts, easing the growth of electricity and clean water in places that desperately need it.”
“Third, a spike in oil and gas prices would put hundreds of billions of dollars in the pockets of the rulers of petrostates. Life in countries like Russia, Angola and Iran reads like a list of everything liberals hate: political corruption and oppression, authoritarian leaders and abominable records on women’s, gay and minority rights. A ban on fracking is not just about whether to drill in New York State, but also about the oil-fueled power of a Middle Eastern king to resist domestic reform and how that power can be checked by rising American oil and gas production.”
While these benefits are undeniable, the most extreme anti-industry activists (and some misguided Hollywood actors) still fearmonger on the issue, despite a 60-plus year track record and more than 1.2 million fracking operations which have not produced the negative outcomes that they repeatedly, and falsely, claim exist.
Climate Leaders Frack
To review, everyone from President Obama, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and countless elected officials and environmental regulators tout U.S. natural gas production for its substantial climate change and economic benefits.
Respected international bodies agree. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – which anti-fracking activists like Bill McKibben on 350.org and Michael Brune of the Sierra Club have called the “gold standard” of climate science – wrote:
“A key development since AR4 is the rapid deployment of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies, which has increased and diversified the gas supply… this is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.” (Ch. 7, p. 18)
“In the United States, emissions declined by 2% (in 2015), as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation took place.”
Leaders in the Democratic Party are just as understanding of the positive role fracking plays in meeting climate goals and making the economy work better for everyone.
Again, President Obama has touted natural gas development as a job creator and way to cut emissions multiple times, even mentioning it in his State of the Union.
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) – a geologist with a professional understanding of the fracking process — has pointed to the increased use of natural as the “only realistic way” to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) – one of the leading climate change activists of the past 40 years — has said that a ban on fracking “doesn’t make a lot of sense”, noting that the process uses much less water than activists claim and that a ban would increase California’s reliance on foreign oil.
Sen. Sanders’ Democratic opponent, former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has developed a factsheet, that explains the climate benefits of natural gas:
“Domestically produced natural gas has played a critical role in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants. US CO2 emissions in 2015 reached their lowest level in 20 years due in large part to a shift from coal to natural power generation, helping to put the US in a strong negotiating position at the Paris climate conference. This shift has also yielded significant public health benefits, avoiding thousands of premature deaths and more than 100,000 asthma attacks in 2015 alone. With the right safeguards in place, natural gas can help meet our 2025 international climate commitment, in a way that keeps us on track with achieving a greater than 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.” (emphasis added)
Secretary Clinton’s factsheet also notes that the increased use of natural gas is also helping renewable energy thrive – another cause close to liberals’ hearts:
“Hillary Clinton is committed to making America the world’s clean energy superpower and meeting the climate change challenge. 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.” (emphasis added)
In addition, Secretary Clinton’s campaign advisor John Podesta said, during a roundtable discussion on climate change at the White House, that opposing all fossil fuels is “completely impractical”
“Asked about the criticism, Podesta spoke generally, saying the country would benefit if more power plants relied on gas.
‘So I think we remain committed to developing the resource and using it, and we think there’s an advantage, particularly in the electricity generation sector, to move it forward,” he said.”
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) – a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee generally acknowledged to be one of the Senate’s most liberal members –recently spoke about how cheap, abundant natural gas from fracking has helped boost the manufacturing industry in Minnesota and across the country. As Sen. Franken said:
“But most of the fracking that we’ve been doing, is what we’ve had a revolution in, in natural gas. And because of that, we’ve lowered the cost of manufacturing in this country tremendously because of the electricity that we do, with very cheap natural gas… Minnesota produces no fossil fuels whatsoever, but we use a lot of natural gas in our manufacturing and it’s beneficial…”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) – whose own state is suffering economically due to its ill-advised fracking ban – confirmed the bipartisan support that fracking enjoys during an MSNBC interview:
“Overall, the Democrats throughout the country have supported fracking. The President has, most of us have, and it’s worked quite well.”
Finally, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) went even further this week, noting that activists who believe that we can transitions from fossil fuels immediately are engaging in their own form of climate denial.
Bernie: Increase poverty and carbon emissions
Sen. Sanders’ ad – narrated by activist actress Susan Sarandon – is yet another anti-fracking misinformation vehicle that ignores the fact that countless scientists, regulators and industry professionals have ensured that fracking has been done safely since the 1940s.
“No fracking anywhere” may as well be “poverty everywhere” considering the massive economic benefits enjoyed by Americans – especially poorer Americans – because of the shale revolution that fracking innovation made possible. The fact that a ban on fracking would increase carbon emissions at a time when the United States is making great strides in cutting emissions thanks to the increased use of natural gas is all the more reason to dismiss the idea.
This ad, and Sen. Sanders’ ongoing anti-fracking rhetoric, is out of touch with the overwhelming scientific consensus, the majority in the Democratic party and with the needs of everyday Americans, and it is completely out to lunch when it comes to fighting climate change.