White House Advisors: Anti-Fracking Activists are “Impractical”

Just when we thought there wasn’t room for another nail in the coffin for anti-fracking activists’ claims on natural gas, two top White House advisors have managed to squeeze in a few more.

This week, at a briefing with reporters on President Obama’s climate initiative, White House climate advisor (and former president of the Center for American Progress) John Podesta pushed back against activists who have criticized the President’s support for natural gas. As POLITICO reported:

“If you oppose all fossil fuels and you want to turn that switch off tomorrow, that is a completely impractical way of moving toward a clean-energy future,” Podesta told reporters during a roundtable discussion at the White House.

“With all due respect to my friends in the environmental community, if they expect us to turn off the lights and go home, that’s sort of an impractical suggestion,” he added. (emphasis added)

Podesta added that natural gas specifically would provide clear environmental benefits:

“So I think we remain committed to developing the resource and using it,” Podesta said, “and we think there’s an advantage, particularly in the electricity generation sector, to move it forward.”

That wasn’t the only rebuke activists got from the administration. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, also explained that the anti-fracking talking point on methane emission is simply wrong:

“The basic story on methane, including from the LNG sector, is that the emissions are definitely big enough to be worth reducing, but they’re not big enough to imperil the advantage that natural gas has over coal as a way to generate electricity,” Holdren told reporters at the meeting. (emphasis added)

In other words, John Holdren just rebuked one of the anti-fracking crowd’s favorite talking points.

Considering the praise anti-fracking activists have poured on these figures for their commitment to the environment, yesterday’s press conference must have been a pretty big blow.  For instance, the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune has called Podesta an “outspoken champion” for environmental protection:

“By adding John Podesta to his team, President Obama has wisely chosen a proven leader and an outspoken champion for clean energy and climate action. John sees the intrinsic value of our public lands and forests, knows the danger of our reliance on dirty fuels like tar sands, and recognizes climate disruption as one of the most pressing challenges of our time — and he’s taken action to find solutions. His voice will be a welcome addition to the White House.”

Of course, Podesta’s and Holdren’s comments are perfectly in line with numerous Obama administration officials and top climate scientists who have touted the benefits of natural gas.

  • Secretary of State John Kerry: “If we harness the power of the wind in Mexico and the biomass in Brazil, the sunshine in Chile and Peru, the natural gas in the United States and Argentina, then the enormous benefits for local economies, public health, and of course climate change mitigation could reach every corner of the Americas and beyond.”
  • EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: “Responsible development of natural gas is an important part of our work to curb climate change and support a robust clean energy market at home.”
  • President Obama’s former climate czar Carol Browner: “there are a lot of reasons” to support natural gas as a path to a clean energy future.
  • Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz: “It’s been a big contributor to our carbon reduction.”
  • Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell: “Working hand in hand with industry, we have an opportunity to use innovative technologies to capture natural gas to power more homes with cleaner American-made energy, while reducing methane emissions and cutting carbon pollution.”
  • California-Berkeley physics professor and climate scientists Dr. Richard Muller:  “Environmentalists who oppose the development of shale gas and fracking are making a tragic mistake.”

Could anti-fracking activists’ claims on methane emissions and greenhouse gases be marginalized any further? Time will tell.

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