By ann summers
WikiLeaks is continuing to publish more emails from the account of John Podesta, the chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. One newly published email revealed that Clinton privately bashed environmentalists opposed to fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline. During a meeting with the Building Trades Union in September 2015,
Expectations abound for 2017 as President Clinton, if her legislative history holds, is likely to be more conciliatory to some version of bipartisanship in environmental legislation. What counts as the Wikileaks documents show, is that there are “serious policy matters” which cannot be marginalized depending on the audience’s ideology. There can be a “Left balance” that is also the “right balance”.
This nuanced easing will occur even if fewer obstructions than under her predecessor are expected with improved party minority/majority status in Congress and perhaps fewer ‘baggers. As always there will be the constraints of special interest lobbies.
Yet how committed will she be to the 2016 Democratic Party platform as the GOP resistance which receded with the Trumpian implosion will reconstitute itself with new and usual suspects in the next session of Congress.
Even in her non-radical(sic) environmentalism, she has been grudgingly receptive to progressive positions not simply because of gaffes like forgetting to speak of retraining and redirecting lost jobs in West Virginia coal country. Considering Clinton 42’s influence at that moment, her lifelong triangulating tendencies will need to be criticized, regardless of the balance of Congressional power.
Fracking is a pernicious example of energy policy lagging behind booming extraction economies because of the volume of already ruinous fracking incentivized by profitability and problematic regulation. Unfortunately the discourse has been extreme rather than reasoned, and the externalities are far too obvious.
Alternative extraction materials/methods and water impacts must be at the forefront of consistent regulatory activity, notwithstanding the general problems of public/private land policy. It is more than any cost/benefit analysis given the climate change issues.
The question for many will be whether bans on fracking are realistic or necessary in terms of a strategic national energy policy that must move farther and faster for comparative global growth but remain nationally and locally sustainable.
HRC’s generally DLC centrist positions will remain much like her husband’s followers who tended to exercise influence in PBO’s White House. One can only hope that industrial policy & planning can make a return to a Democratic administration that is also harmonious with energy and environmental policy.
It would be unfortunate if she defaults to non-progressive positions held before the primaries as well as acquiescing to the financial-corporate-industrial forces to which she has generally been more receptive than those in the Progressive Caucus.
The problem is not as absolute as discourse often tends to devolve, but those are the limits to conversations that more often than most do not engage the critical practices of policy analysts or decision makers. These are ultimately always more than ballot box issues in a regulatory culture.
Lives will be touched rather than gotten, Madame President, please remember those folks who placed party before position and people before profits.
Hillary Clinton, though, needed more time to outline three conditions in a more nuanced answer on fracking. She’s against it
- “when any locality or any state is against it,”
- “when the release of methane or contamination of water is present,” and
- “unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using.”
Until those conditions are met, “we’ve got to regulate everything that is currently underway, and we have to have a system in place that prevents further fracking.”
“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,” she added.
“…the carbon footprint of fracking is higher than coal burning.”
There’s little question that the United States, with 110 years’ worth of natural gas (at the 2009 rate of consumption), is destined to play a major role in the fuel’s development.
In the meantime, the U.S. should continue to invest in solar and wind, conserve power and implement energy-efficient technology.
Whether we can effectively manage our natural gas resource while developing next-gen sources remains to be seen. Margie Tatro, director of fuel and water systems at Sandia National Laboratories, says, “I think natural gas is a transitioning fuel for the electricity sector until we can get a greater percentage of nuclear and renewables on the grid.”
The battles over fracking have mainly been concerned with the local environmental impact. Reports from the US describe examples of chemical contamination of water supplies and radioactivity above acceptable levels in waste water and in the air in buildings.
There has been less public discussion about the impact of fracking on global warming. The majority of scientists accept that to avoid the most dangerous consequences of global warming we should not burn more than a third or so of proven fossil fuel reserves. Exploring for new natural gas resources with high carbon footprint and unproven yield is environmentally irresponsible.
In terms of carbon emissions, any leaks during the fracking process will release methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a far worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Researchers from Cornell University have shown that, even at the lowest leakage rates achieved in the USA, the carbon footprint of fracking is higher than coal burning.