Editorial Boards, Fact Checkers, and Environmentalists Lambast Sanders and Clinton for Rhetoric on Fracking

Following the Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, over the past week, major editorial boards, columnists and fact checkers have written scathing reviews of Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for their misleading claims on hydraulic fracturing.

In response to an audience question at the debate, Secretary Clinton flip-flopped on her usual stance that gas can help drive down emissions, and instead said, “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.” Senator Sanders took it a step further claiming that it “…is doing terrible things to water systems all over this country.” He also noted, “My answer is a lot shorter. No, I do not support fracking,”

As a result, a range of editorial boards from across the country have called them out, including: Financial Times, The Washington Post, Midland Reporter-Telegram (Texas), Aurora Sentinel (Colorado),  and The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead (North Dakota), among others.

The Financial Times explained that since hydraulic fracturing has been responsible for our energy boom, which has brought lower energy cost, lower greenhouse gas emissions and strengthened energy security,

“…it is troubling that the two contenders for the Democratic party’s nomination for president have been competing over which of them is more eager to bring fracking to an end.”

 The editorial board further noted,

“Stopping fracking would be a great plan for rescuing Saudi Arabia. For the US, though, it would be disastrous.”

 The Washington Post focused on Senator Sanders’ rejection of safe natural gas production and its inherent climate benefits when compared to other fuel sources:

“It’s important to understand the environmental value of burning carefully fracked natural gas instead of coal. “If leaks of natural gas can be minimized, the [greenhouse gas] benefits of this transformation would be substantial, particularly as a bridge to a renewables-based future,” noted an evenhanded 2014 fracking assessment published in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources…Despite all this, when it came time for Mr. Sanders to address the issue Sunday, he said, “My answer is a lot shorter. No, I do not support fracking… I talk to scientists who tell me that fracking is doing terrible things to water systems all over this country.”

The Post also noted,

“Mr. Sanders’s position would be more understandable if he had the better point on the policy. But, as is often the case, his statements were more firmly grounded in ideology than reality.”

As The Post’s own “Fact Checker” put it,

“Sanders is apparently not talking to the scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency…A draft assessment by the EPA released in 2015 said it found no evidence of ‘widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.’”

Smaller newspapers in shale-rich areas of the country joined the chorus of criticism. The Aurora Sentinel writes that the candidates are misguided for ignoring the economic impact fracking has brought to the Centennial State:

“Their remarks are shortsighted and clearly not based on either science nor a firm grasp of the reality of the country’s energy systems….Right now, a substantial credit for the recovering economy must be paid to falling energy prices and the jobs, right here in Colorado, that the energy sector is responsible for creating. Real science and research shows than an outright ban on fracking would have a huge impact on the energy market, and you can rest assured that impact won’t benefit private and commercial consumers.”

The Reporter-Telegram of Midland, Texas sees Clinton as out of touch with everyday Texans whose livelihoods rely on a thriving regional energy industry:

“The Reporter-Telegram isn’t going to get back in the endorsement business, but we aren’t going to shy away from calling out a candidate when the time is appropriate….” Clinton doesn’t “…mind the pain at the pump that would break budgets, increase costs at the store and likely cause the elimination of high-paying jobs for average Americans.”

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota writes that amid their criticisms of American energy production the candidates forgot about one critical constituency they talk so much about supporting:

“It’s a peculiar position for candidates who have taken great pains to define themselves as champions of the middle class….On the jobs front, fracking has created thousands of good middle-class jobs. As oil and gas prospered because of fracking, industries associated with energy development – steel, trucking, railroads, construction, engineering, etc. – also prospered. More middle class jobs.”

Even climate policy advocates chimed in as well. The founder of a prominent environmental think tank – one that calls climate change “one of the biggest environmental, technological, and developmental risks in human history” – voiced his concern in USA Today that the Sanders plan would undermine America’s emissions progress:

“Sanders has vowed if elected to rewrite the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (which primarily restricts coal use) to make it tougher on natural gas. Doing so would gut the rule. Regulation of carbon emissions from the power sector under provisions of the Clean Air Act depends almost entirely on the Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that cheap natural gas generation is the “best available” alternative to coal power plants.”

A columnist in Investor’s Business Daily highlighted how even “liberals admit” that the Clinton/Sanders plan “plan to stop fracking would boost CO2.” As John Merlin put it,

“The problem is that fracking is directly responsible for the sharp decline in CO2 emission in the U.S., which both Bernie and Hillary have said is the biggest threat humanity has ever faced. For those who don’t know, fracking is a new drilling technology that has opened vast new supplies of oil and natural gas within the United States. In fact, more than half of natural gas in the U.S. is now produced through fracking.”

If that’s not enough, a column in Mother Jones – not exactly a close friend of the oil and gas industry – also cautions anti-fracking activists that a scarcity of gas could in fact lead to more emissions:

“Now, it appears that either Democrat could try to curtail fracking substantially. Many environmentalists would celebrate that, but some experts are warning that when it comes to climate change, limiting fracking could backfire…”the country has seen a steady reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP, an indication that the economy is becoming cleaner. The rapid growth of solar, wind, and other renewables is one important factor behind that trend, as are widespread improvements to energy efficiency. But the swapping of natural gas for coal has been arguably the most vital…”

All of this goes to show just how out of the mainstream a candidates’ claim to ban fracking actually is.





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