Appalachian Basin

Steyer and McKibben Bringing Anti-Fossil Fuel Crusade to Ohio amid String of Defeats

Leading national anti-fossil fuel activists are descending on Ohio this week for the “After Fossil Fuels: The Next Economy” conference in an apparent attempt to revive their failed campaigns to ban fracking in the state.

The conference, running Thursday through Saturday at Oberlin College features Tom Steyer, a San Francisco billionaire and environmental activist known for donating huge sums of money to fringe activist groups, and co-founder Bill McKibben, the leader of the “Keep It In The Ground” (KIITG) movement.

Since Steyer is not exactly a household name in Ohio so it’s worth providing a bit of background. Steyer is a former hedge fund manager turned environmental mega-donor who has pledged vast sums to push his fringe anti-fossil fuel agenda. Steyer’s group, NextGen Climate Action Committee (a Super Political Action Committee), is dumping a significant portion of its more than $41 million budget into Ohio to target millennial voters and fund failing anti-fossil fuel campaigns across the state. Some may consider him the anti-fossil fuel crowd’s Koch Brothers but his political spending actually far exceeds Koch spending.

Steyer and McKibben will appear alongside many other prominent national anti-fossil fuel figures like Sierra Club President Michael Brune and Michael Northrop with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (the group bankrolling the collapsing #Exxonknew campaign). Curiously, the conference will also feature former Colorado Governor, Bill Ritter, a Democrat and strong fracking supporter who been called the nation’s “Greenest Governor” and has even been credited with coining the phrase, “new energy economy.”

 Steyer and McKibben’s Oberlin Safe Space

That Steyer and McKibben are choosing to appear at Oberlin is telling considering that across the state 83 percent of ban-fracking ballot measures have failed or been ruled invalid, thanks to an overwhelming number of unions, Democrats, business groups, and landowners who have continued to reject out-of-state groups pushing their ideologies on Ohio voters.

In short, Oberlin is one of their only safe havens because their message is failing everywhere else in Ohio.

Their attendance at the conference is likely a move to strengthen relationships with local activists pushing their national agenda in the state. The pair has deployed similar tactics in states like Colorado, though the results cannot exactly be marked as a success.

In a sign that Ohio candidates know how unpopular Steyer and McKibben’s ideas are with Ohio voters, the conference agenda shows a dearth of Ohio candidates or elected officials attending the event. In fact, the only Ohio voices participating are academics from Oberlin College!

Interestingly, some friends of Steyer, like U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Strickland appear to be steering clear from the Oberlin activist road show. But things were very different in April, before the ban-fracking campaign collapsed, when environmental groups tried to make the case that “this Senate race shows how climate action is gaining support in the Midwest”. A few months later Strickland was more than happy to accept max-out donations from the California hedge fund billionaire and attend Steyer’s posh reception, where he ironically said, “Money cannot buy this democracy!”

Ohioans apparently agree. In fact, even with hundreds of thousands from Washington, D.C. anti-fracking money and influence from fringe environmental groups, Ted Strickland’s campaign is “in trouble” (by double-digits). It’s failing because beltway politics, such as Steyer’s KIITG campaign are completely out of touch with Ohioans.

Of course, Strickland’s campaign is only one of many anti-fracking campaigns that are proving fruitless, as just a few months ago, candidates who ran anti-fracking campaigns lost by double digits on Super Tuesday.

But within the confines of Oberlin College, these activist groups can use this conference as a family gathering of sorts, in order to organize their fossil fuel agenda that clearly has been rejected loudly by the vast majority of Ohio.

 Ohioans Reject the Steyer-McKibben Agenda as Shale Development Drives Economic Growth

As the election results have shown time and time again, when it comes to homegrown natural gas development in the Buckeye State, fracking is an issue that has Democrats, Republicans, unions, business, and an overwhelming number of Ohioans saying, “We’re not standing on a natural resource, we’re standing on jobs.”

There is simply no question that over the past five years shale development in Ohio has transformed the state’s economy. Shale has driven down the state’s unemployment rate, boosted local and state tax revenues, and gross domestic product, helped keep the cost of utilities low, and has contributed to millions spent on road and bridges, thanks to billions of investment that has poured into the Buckeye State.

So it should come as no surprise that 83 percent of anti-fracking ballot measures have failed or been ruled invalid; candidates who have run anti-fracking campaigns have lost; and both Republican and Democrat elected officials have stood up to embrace the overwhelming benefits of natural gas development. In fact, it could be argued that fracking is the one issue in Ohio where both parties agree.

Now how many of the Buckeye state’s elected officials, candidates for office and actual leaders will want to be associated with an agenda to drive jobs out of the state?

With this conference as a guide, this election season should serve as a cautionary tale to candidates — anti-fracking campaigns are resoundingly rejected by Ohio voters.

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