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Environment

Bernie and Hillary Have Very Different Positions When It Comes to Fracking

One of the Democratic presidential candidates is calling for a national fracking ban. The other accepts money from the fossil fuel and fracking industries.

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13 2015: CNN Democratic presidential debate features candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton at Wynn Las Vegas.
Photo Credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

When Bernie Sanders addressed a huge crowd in Binghamton, New York last week and proposed a national fracking ban, it was the first time I’ve heard a national leader of his prominence get the science on fracking right.

New Yorkers know that science, because we fought tooth and nail to ensure the perils of fracking were understood. In December 2014, our voices were heard, as the health commissioner found that fracking endangered public health. Governor Cuomo famously said he would follow “the science, not emotion” on fracking, and banned it throughout New York.

This would not have happened without intense grassroots activity from the fracking movement. Fractivists aren’t narrowly focused NIMBY voters just trying to protect our property values. We know fracking threatens public health and would contaminate the water supply, both upstate and for New York City. We are alive to the larger reality that if fracking would harm our children’s health and shouldn’t be permitted here, that it would harm everyone’s children, and shouldn’t be permitted anywhere.

Hillary Clinton’s position on fracking is very different, and smacks of pandering to much narrower interests. She says she supports New York’s fracking ban, but that in other states, she’ll just regulate it. Not incidentally, she accepts millions from lobbyists representing the fossil fuel and fracking industries. Under her leadership, the U.S. State Department created the Global Shale Gas Initiative, a joint diplomatic and industry effort to promote fracking in 30 countries.

In the same breath she says she’ll honor New York’s fracking ban, she also says she favors a natural gas “bridge” to the future, which is an industry talking point. It’s code for building 300 new fracked gas-fired power plants across America and hundreds of thousands of miles of new pipelines to supply them. It also means millions more fracking wells to produce more gas, which would pressure New York to lift its fracking ban. Natural gas is no “bridge,” no transition to renewables; it’s a whole new fossil fuel regime that would have dire consequences for New York and for the climate.

Extraction, transport and storage of fracked gas emits massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere, and methane is at least 84 times more powerful as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. That’s why peer-reviewed research finds shale gas is worse for the climate than oil or coal. If the fracking industry gets its way, gas power plants and other fracking infrastructure gets built, and we’ll lock in the climate impacts of fracked gas for 40 years.

At that point, New York City and coastal communities around the world are under water, and superstorms like Sandy are the norm. The media has largely missed this point about methane and fracked gas, and to be fair, so did the delegates to the Paris climate talks. But New Yorkers are in the flood zone, and we get it.

Here’s what we need to get now: in order to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, we can’t add any new fossil fuels to our energy mix, especially not fracked gas.

So let’s be clear: a vote for Hillary is a vote for fracking, which is a vote to put New York City under water in the next century. Given her ties to fossil fuel interests, her plan to increase natural gas production will solidify fracking as the dominant energy regime. That will unleash a tsunami of fracking expansion across the US, destined to devastate the globe.

Bernie’s climate plan couldn’t be more different. It would ban fracking nationally, it would ban fossil fuel industry lobbyists from the White House, and it would end the numerous subsidies that this obscenely profitable industry has lobbied from establishment politicians. In effect, it would start building the clean energy future now. Bernie is calling for the “political revolution” needed to shift away from natural gas to scale up renewables at the pace needed to slow climate change. His plan is a result of listening to the fracktivist and climate movements that are already living that revolution every day.

We have a historic opportunity to vote our principles and the morals of our movement to elect a president who serves the people. We could vote for a person who truly believes in our movement for peace and a healthy climate. We shouldn't give up this amazing opportunity for anything. This is the most important issue our generation will face. To paraphrase Bill McKibben, if you’re concerned about fracking and the climate, feel the Bern now, so we don’t feel the burning later.

This article originally appeared on Medium.com.

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Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox is artistic director of the International WOW Company. His 2010 film Gasland galvanized the anti-fracking movement and his 2016 film How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change aired on HBO in June 2016.

 

 

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