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Why Is Obama Cuddling Up to Karl Rove and His Gas Drilling Friends?

Rove pronounced the movement for clean energy dead at a natural gas drilling conference. But a massive protest outside reveals just the opposite.

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Rove and Obama vs. We the People

As speakers inside praised deregulation, financial outcomes, and hailed fracking's friends from Pennsylvania in the Senate and State House, protesters outside saw a very different world. The beautiful day seemed the perfect scene for their demands for clean air and water. In downtown Pittsburgh at lunchtime, people stopped to talk with protesters and to watch the lively speakers and musicians explain the practices of the under-regulated and perilous method of extracting methane. The gas industry has begun drilling 10 miles from Pittsburgh, and leasing land within the city limits, and some onlookers were worried enough to take a sign.

A lineup of fine musicians kept up the spirit of the day. Punk musician Justin Sane sang "Gasland Terror," a song he wrote for the occasion, which likens fracking to a terrorist attack of the homeland. And other singers offered inspiring songs, including Mike Stout, Kelly Burgos, Laura Daniels and the Newlanders' Gerard Rohlf.

Speaker after speaker spoke of the strong spirit of the crowd and how a mass movement was beginning, with more and more people troubled by stories or their own experiences with drilling. Doug Shields, a Pittsburgh city councilman, said Pittsburgh was very close to achieving victory in an upcoming vote on a proposal to ban drilling within the city limits. Already at the edge of the city, drilling is going day and night next to a popular shopping mall and hotel.

Local farmers Ron Gullah and Stephen Cleghhorn spoke poignantly of their land being destroyed by water contaminated from fracking. "This is a revolution!" said Loretta Weir, a Pittsburgh resident, and necessary because the gas companies operate "outside the law." Gloria Forouzan, a Marcellus Protester organizer, told AlterNet she was sure a mass movement was in the making. Every day she has been getting calls from people across the country. On Wednesday Wilkes-Barre ran its own protest, and people on the street who had never heard of fracking promised to travel out to Luzerne Community College to see a free showing of the documentary Gasland. Residents of Little Rock and Dallas held their own protests, too, on November 3 and in Cherry Valley, NY a protest will be held on Nov 11. "People are taking heart in what others are doing," Forouzan said.

Josh Fox, director of Gasland, agreed that a huge movement to put a hold on fracking was building. He told a story about a family in a fracking area whose kids suffer constant nosebleeds from toxins linked to fracking. "We are here for that family," he said. Taking out his cell phone, he called governor-elect Tom Corbett's office. He told the woman who answered the phone that he had a message for Mr. Corbett: "We the people of Pennsylvania, joined by our allies, demand an end to hydro-fracking gas drilling." He held his phone out to the crowd, which chanted, "No fracking way!" Then Fox thanked the woman for her time, and ended the call.

Go Forth and Organize

President Obama might be feeling friendly to fracking. As reported by Mike Soroghan of Greenwire, fracking industry spokesmen found Obama's statements at his November 3rd press conference are consistent with positions of his State Department, which is looking to push the technology globall,y and the Energy Department also puts a lot of stock in shale gas production.

But even in government, all is not lost. Proposition 23, an effort to roll back California's climate law, was overwhelmingly defeated with 61.4 percent of the vote. The federal climate bill, however inadequate, might not be dead according to Matthew Garrington, advocate for the group Environment Colorado. "Of the House members who voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act [climate bill], 81 percent survived. Of those who voted no, 61 percent lost. It'll be hard for someone to credibly make the case that yesterday's election was a referendum on that vote," he said.