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Democratic Group Calls for Party to Reject ‘Keep It In the Ground’ Agenda and Embrace Fracking

Coming off a “tough” year in which climate activist Bill McKibben admitted the “Keep It In the Ground” movement “lost of a lot of ground,” 2018 hasn’t been much better for anti-fossil fuel extremists.

The latest blow came Tuesday via a new paper from centrist Democratic group New Democracy that urges the party to embrace the U.S. shale oil and gas boom and further distance itself from the extreme “Keep It In the Ground” agenda that calls for a nationwide fracking ban. Authored by Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton administration climate policy advisor, the report states:

“Legitimately concerned about climate change, many top Democrats have simply lost a realistic perspective on domestic energy politics, and especially the major economic and environmental value of the shale oil and gas boom.”

“Democrats must stop outsourcing energy messaging to often-elitist environmental advocates who are painfully out of touch with the concerns of average Americans.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. But the paper’s blunt conclusions are certainly justified – supporting the KIITG agenda doesn’t make sense from either a practical or political perspective, as the report thoroughly details.

Banning fossil fuels ‘an ideological crusade, not a legitimate energy or environmental policy’

The paper sharply criticizes Democrats who have been “obsessed with pleasing the often ideologically-driven environmental elites” for subsequently losing support of those in the political and literal center of the country. From the paper:

“… [N]ational Democrats have alienated centrist voters without producing obvious, signature political victories on energy and climate to build on, despite many smaller victories.”

“… for voters in most parts of the country, the obsession with immediately eliminating all fossil fuels appears an ideological crusade, not a legitimate energy or environmental policy. These views are especially predominant in just the regions — the Midwest, South, Plains and Mountain West — Democrats are now losing in record numbers and must take back to gain power…”

“… Democratic leaders have, many times, appeared more preoccupied with gaining the unalloyed approval of environmental groups than the support of mainstream voters around the country needed to win back majorities.” (emphasis added)

This pandering to environmental “elites,” as the report puts it, has also led to the perception that there is more widespread support for the “Keep It In the Ground” movement in the Democratic party than realistically exists.

“… Because Democrats have been so closely aligned with environmentalists for years, many voters do not distinguish between the views of “keep it in the ground” oil and gas prohibitionists, and those of the Democratic Party as a whole. The U.S. shale oil and gas revolution of the past decade has exacerbated this divide.”

The shale gas revolution has, in fact, been embraced, but often silently, by most Democrats…” (emphasis added)

EID has noted numerous times that the KIITG movement has very little mainstream political support — even among Democrats, as was evidenced when the 2016 Democratic National Committee rejected including McKibben’s proposal for a national fracking ban on its platform.

Former Obama administration Science Advisor John Holdren has said, “The notion that we’re going to keep it all in the ground is unrealistic.” Hilary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta called the KIITG agenda McKibben and others are pushing “completely impractical.”

Prominent Democrats such as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack and California Gov. Jerry Brown have also spoken favorably of fracking and questioned the wisdom of calling for a ban on fossil fuels.

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) even went so far as to blame the “Keep It In The Ground” (KIITG) movement’s extreme agenda for Democrats’ devastating losses in 2016.

“I think when you look at it, it’s so critically important that we live in the real world and not in the world of ideology. I can tell you that… there’s a large number of people that are ‘Leave It In The Ground’ that think we should shut down all fossil fuels. I think people in the fossil fuel industry feel that, whether they’re coal miners, or they’re oil workers, and I think that kind of alignment with ‘Leave It In The Ground’ and not looking at energy policy, has had an effect (on the way voters cast their ballots this year).”

The New Democracy paper lists a myriad of reasons why the KIITG agenda has been largely rejected by mainstream Democrats — and could continue to be rejected.

Shale revolution has resulted in “major” economic and environmental benefits

As the paper acknowledges, the shale revolution has resulted in “massive economic benefits” in the form of millions of jobs created and “hundreds of billions of dollars in lower energy costs,” – facts that even KIITG zealots reluctantly acknowledge. Further, the New Democracy paper also correctly details the numerous environmental benefits the shale revolution has yielded, most notably:

“Indeed, the shale gas boom has been the key reason the U.S. has been able to cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

Refreshingly, in addition to acknowledging the shale gas revolution is the No. 1 reason the U.S. leads the world in carbon reductions, the report also notes that methane emissions from U.S. oil and gas development are not only low — allowing natural gas to enjoy clear climate benefits over other traditional fuels — but far lower than other areas of the world such as Russia, which, ironically, has exported LNG to New England due to KIITG policies. From the paper:

“The good news is that American gas has much lower methane emissions than other sources, especially Russian gas… Russian gas, in contrast, comes from the notoriously leaky Gazprom production system, with leaks or “fugitive emissions” rates of at least 5-7 percent.”

The paper also acknowledges that abundant and affordable natural gas made available via the shale revolution has improved air quality, decreased asthma and even accelerated renewable energy growth.

“Natural gas, in fact, will be a key transition fuel for the U.S. for decades to come. One key reason — natural gas integrates with intermittent wind and solar better than other base load power sources, with new natural gas plants able to fully “power up” within 10 minutes when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining. And, when combined with carbon capture and storage, natural gas can be a near-zero-emissions fuel.”

 Conclusion

This paper couldn’t be clearer: Democratic support of the KIITG agenda and opposition of fracking — whether it be perceived or real (McKibben was appointed to the DNC Platform Committee in 2016, after all) — has contributed to the party having fewer elected officials across all levels of government since 1920. Bledsoe argues this must change going forward for the party to put the cumulative outcome of the 2016 elections in its rearview mirror.

“In many parts of the country — including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Indiana, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and other states — natural gas has been a huge economic benefit. Democrats must embrace the shale boom in shale states — even as, in blue states and districts, they emphasize the role of gas in Democratic plans for deep decarbonization of the American and global economy to prevent the worst domestic impacts of climate change.”

“Now, candidates across the country, especially in “purple” swing states and districts, must create a distinctively Democratic brand on energy and climate change, a vision that combines the advanced renewable energy boom and the benefits of domestic oil and gas.”

The KIITG agenda has been too extreme for a vast majority of Americans for quite some time. Pragmatic Democrats are starting to realize that fact. Looks like 2018 is shaping up to be an even tougher year than 2017 for McKibben and company.

1 Comment
  • Randy Verret
    Posted at 09:50h, 11 July Reply

    So, what is the industry going to do to capitalize on this momentum? Some of us, for years now, have been suggesting a change in the conversation. Sensible Democrats, now realizing that the environmental movement (predominantly) is ideologically driven is one thing. Converting that reality into necessary political action to finally achieve a coherent (long term) national energy policy is something completely different. Time to stop pushing peas around on our plate and seize the initiative to get a ROBUST & HONEST energy discussion started. So far, the trade organizations (Western Energy Alliance among others) have not been interested in input from folks like me…experienced, knowledgeable, former oil & gas operatives that understand at the grassroots level how to communicate ideas to the public. Anytime EID or any other industry advocates want to reach out for a practical discussion, look me up on LinkedIn. Let’s cut the drama & theater and go to work…

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