In tonight’s Democratic Party Presidential Debate (hosted by CNN on March 6, 2016) we had another round of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders having a most interesting policy debate. Compare this to the Republican Party debates, the latest one had a long segment concerning penis sizes and manliness, and it’s obvious that either Clinton or Sanders will be a vast improvement over any of the Republican candidates. I plan to vote for whichever of the Democratic Party candidates win the nomination. However, in tonights debate Hillary Clinton was asked about Fracking, and her answer was the polar opposite of her actual record on Fracking and the oil industry. I sincerely hope she’s had a true conversion to the cause she claims to support – climate change, and truly weaning America off of fossil fuels. But her actions while in office tell a different story.
By the way – I want to quickly acknowledge that I’ve not posted on this blog for a while. I’ve been immensely busy with some writing projects, a pair of books, and I just started a job working in the Solar industry. It’s meant this site has been neglected for a month or so. I hope to have a better balance in my schedule starting soon, that will allow me to dedicate time to this site again.
In any case, I’m here to document (some of) Hillary Clinton’s record on supporting fossil fuels and specifically Fracking.
During the debate the candidates were asked about Fracking, with Clinton going first. She outlined a series of conditions under which her administration would prohibit Fracking. Unfortunately I didn’t make a transcript, however in a report on The Hill website they gave this summary:
Clinton said she opposes individual fracking operations if a series of conditions are met: if local communities oppose it, if the drilling releases methane or contaminates water, or if fracking operators aren’t required to identify the chemicals they are using.
The Hill noted that Clinton closed that by saying “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.”
The issue of climate change has been a major talking point for both of you. I wanted to bring in Sarah Bellaire, she’s a student at the University of Michigan at Dearborn who says she’s currently undecided.
Ms. Bellaire has a question on fracking, which, for viewers, is a process of oil and gas drilling that’s led to a significant increase in American energy production and jobs, but also raises serious environmental concerns.
Sarah, your question is for Secretary Clinton, but you’ll both be able to weigh in. Sarah?
QUESTION: Fracking can lead to environmental pollution including, but not limited to, the contamination of water supply. Do you support fracking?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: You know, I don’t support it when any locality or any state is against it, number one. I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. I don’t support it — number three — unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using.
So 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. And I think that’s the best approach, because right now, there places where fracking is going on that are not sufficiently regulated.
So first, we’ve got to regulate everything that is currently underway, and we have to have a system in place that prevents further fracking unless conditions like the ones that I just mentioned are met.
In other words, Clinton claims today that she is essentially against Fracking. Sanders followed that with a much shorter answer – he is flatly against Fracking, and said he’d talked with scientists around the world describing a very scary climate change scenario and that fracking causes groundwater contamination and a host of other ills. He closed firmly saying we need to move to a clean energy renewable energy paradigm, a position I wholly agree with.
The support of eliminating fracking by both candidates is a big step in the right direction. They failed to spell out the necessity of taking the step to fully embrace renewable energy resources. The fact is that the whole reason for the glut in domestic oil and natural gas production is entirely because of Fracking. Therefore, if the government successfully bans fracking, which would clearly be a huge uphill battle against the most powerful companies in the world, it would undermine that glut of domestic fossil fuel production, and in order to keep the economy going a replacement energy system must be developed.
But, let’s get to the promised topic – Hillary Clinton’s record with the fossil fuel industry.
Hillary Clinton’s State Department started the ball rolling on an effort to export Fracking technology to countries around the world. I’ve written a number of posts about this over the years, all of which are linked from that post written in September 2014. I first heard of this while researching fracking proposals in Romania, Ukraine and Poland.
The State Department had a program first called the Global Shale Gas Initiative, and later the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program. The main task of this program was organizing meetings between Western oil companies, and the governments of countries with frackable shale deposits. These meetings were meant to increase the likelihood of Western oil companies working in those countries to set up fracking operations. Since the Fracking boom originated in the USA, it is obviously the US Oil Companies who would therefore be the best culprits for implementing Fracking elsewhere.
Through the process convened by the US State Department Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program, the operatives would help convince these governments about benefits of implementing Fracking, and implementation of legal frameworks allowing Western oil companies to work in the respective countries. US Government agencies have maps of all frackable shale deposits in the world, and have produced papers documenting the legal and technical challenges in setting up fracking operations in each country. Hillary Clinton’s State Department is responsible for quite a bit of that work.
An example from February 6, 2012, from the State Department website (Hillary Clinton was still Secretary of State at that time), has Bureau of Energy Resources Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary Bob Cekuta (what a title, eh?) giving a speech in Indonesia “unconventional natural gas, and the potential benefits that can be realized by its responsible development.”
Energy, I should note, is an area of global foreign policy that Secretary Clinton has determined needs increased focus and emphasis including because of its role in global economic growth and security.
… Ladies and gentlemen the reality, something that has surprised many Americans, is that in 2010 the United States produced more natural gas than any country in the world; more than all the countries of the Middle East combined. That one fact alone should give you an idea of the transformative effect of unconventional gas in my country. President Obama mentioned this transformation in his remarks to the Congress in the State of the Union last month. During the last decade, production of unconventional natural gas, which includes shale gas, tight gas, and coalbed methane, grew to reach more than 50 percent of annual U.S. natural gas output. Development of domestic shale gas resources – resources that were once thought technologically and economically unfeasible – has been made possible due to a combination of U.S. government support for research and development and private sector entrepreneurship.
He said a lot more – I replicated the speech transcript below for your reading pleasure. It’s important to read between the lines of such a thing as this, because the very fact of his presence in a given country giving a speech like this means the US State Department was putting pressure on target governments to adopt Fracking. The speech lays out a strong economic case for doing so, promising wealth and jobs to countries that get on the bandwagon.
The result of this line of thinking is to remain wedded to and dependent on fossil fuels.
The UGTEP was under the Bureau of Energy Resources. The BER was chartered in November 2011 as the result of a comprehensive review initiated by Clinton when she came into office. That review identified global energy policy as a critical issue.
A quick review of the BER’s published statements shows a shift beginning in 2013 — when John Kerry took over from Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. No longer was the BER talking about Unconventional Gas resources, but instead talking about renewable energy resources.
Greenpeace has an information posting about Clinton’s ties to fossil fuel interests. It details a lotta monetary support from the Oil industry and its lobbyists, as well as her policy actions while in office.
A Huffington Post report from July 2015 says almost all of Clinton’s “Bundlers” (operatives who gather political donations from a large set of people) have ties to the oil industry.
Another Huffington Post report, Feb 4, 2016, says it all in its title: Bernie Sanders Will Ban Fracking. Hillary Clinton ‘Sold Fracking to the World’
In January 2016, Clinton held a fundraiser at the headquarters of the financial firm Franklin Square Capital Partners, a major investor in the fossil-fuel industry, particularly domestic fracking. Pennsylvania is one of the most heavily fracked states in the USA.
As much as Hillary Clinton is saying very positive things about renewable energy, she has a clear record of engagement with the Fossil Fuel Industry and Fracking in particular. And, even now, in the heat of the campaign, she’s turned to the fracking industry for more donations.
UPDATE: It turns out that Hillary Clinton was asked about that very fundraiser during last night’s debate. But, she dodged the question, and Bernie Sanders did not take the ball and confront her on the issue.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, on the — on the campaign trail, Senator Sanders often refers to a fundraiser in January that was hosted by executives from a firm that has invested significantly in domestic fracking. Do you have any comment on that?
CLINTON: I don’t have any comment. I don’t know that. I don’t believe that there is any reason to be concerned about it. I admire what Senator Sanders has accomplished in his campaign. I have more than 850,000 donors, most of them give less than $100. I am very proud of that.
And I just want to make one point. You know, we have our differences. And we get into vigorous debate about issues, but compare the substance of this debate with what you saw on the Republican stage last week.
That’s what we call a “non-answer”. The Philadelphia Inquirer is very clear that a Clinton fundraiser was held at the HQ of a major investment firm that does a lot of investments related to Fracking. It’s clear, and it’s clear that Clinton dodged the question.
Unfortunately … here’s how Bernie Sanders followed up:
COOPER: Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: Well, let me make a couple of responses. Let me pick up on the last point the secretary made. You know, we are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in that.
SANDERS: But here’s the difference. Here is the difference. It’s not a personal difference. We just do things differently. All right. I honestly — look, we have a corrupt campaign finance system. And what Secretary Clinton is saying and what every candidate who receives from the fossil fuel industry or the drug companies or Wall Street say, not going to impact me.
The question the American people have to ask is, why are these people putting millions of dollars into candidates if it’s not going to make a difference?
COOPER: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: And that is why, by the way, that is why one of my top priorities, if elected president will be to overturn this outrageous Citizens United Supreme Court (INAUDIBLE).
That’s nice that Sanders got a word in about killing the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision. But he had in front of him an opportunity to … oh well …
This is the map I mentioned earlier – the U.S. Energy Information Administration collected this estimate of all frackable shale deposits. I find it interesting that Ukraine is almost entirely covered in frackable shale, and conveniently has natural gas pipeline connections to the rest of Europe, and oh by the way there was a U.S.-inspired Coup to install a pro-Western government in Ukraine leading to a civil war where the U.S. and Russia were playing a tug-of-war over Ukraine.
Another interesting detail in this map is Libya, that is also completely covered by frackable shale deposits. And, oh, by the way, Hillary Clinton pushed hard to get the U.S. involved with supporting a war effort to topple Libya’s government.
350 Action sent me this press release:
Flint Debate Sees Clinton and Sanders Clash over Fracking
Flint, Michigan — Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders engaged in a serious discussion about the environmental injustices facing Flint, Michigan and communities around the country in a spirited debate on Sunday night. While the discussion didn’t reveal serious policy differences between the candidates, it did highlight the divide between Democrats and Republicans, who spent their debate comparing the relative size of their fingers and other body parts.
“This country needs to take a serious look at the environmental injustices affecting communities across our nation,” said Yong Jung Cho, 350 Action Campaign Coordinator. “We know that race and class are inextricably linked to the fight for healthy communities and a safe climate. Tonight’s debate helped elevate issues that should be at the forefront of this race going forward.”
The debate also saw a confrontation between the two candidates over the controversial and dangerous practice of fracking. Asked whether she supported the issue, Hillary Clinton answered that she would push for tougher regulations, but still allow fracking to happen in some places. Clinton has come under fire from environmentalists for her previous support for fracking, especially during her tenure at the US State Department.
Asked the same question, Sanders’ response was much more direct, “No, I do not support fracking.” Sanders went on to note that climate change was a major issue facing the country that deserved more air time in the media and serious political steps to address the crisis.
“Clinton will continue to struggle to convince climate advocates that she is serious about addressing the crisis until she comes out for a full ban on fracking,” said Cho. “Clinton has moved from supporting fracking to insisting on regulations that would make it impossible to frack in most places. It’s high time to come out against it all together.”
“Scientists are clear that the only way to prevent catastrophic climate change is to leave all fossil fuels, including natural gas, in the ground,” she continued. “We need to see clearer signs that if elected President she won’t do the bidding of the fossil fuel industry corporations, whose campaign contributions she still hasn’t refused to accept.”
While Senator Sanders and Martin O’Malley signed a pledge to refuse to accept campaign contributions from fossil fuel lobbyists, Secretary Clinton refused to do so. Months ago she told activists that she would “look into” the issue, but her campaign hasn’t provided any additional updates.
350 Action and others are calling on all candidates for public office to refuse campaign contributions from fossil fuel lobbyists.
Unconventional Natural Gas: The U.S. Experience and Global Energy Security
February 6, 2012
Good morning Deputy Minister Widjajono, Ambassador Marciel, members of the Indonesian parliament, Director General Legowo, esteemed colleagues, and friends. I am honored to have this opportunity to speak with you today about unconventional natural gas, and the potential benefits that can be realized by its responsible development. But I would like to start by just mentioning the great potential in the broader energy partnership between our two countries. The leaders of both the United States and Indonesia have worked in recent years to expand and deepen our relations. Indonesia is a natural regional partner and a co-member of the G20. Our countries have agreed to a Comprehensive Partnership, and a Joint Commission – led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa – which includes an Energy Working Group. Energy, I should note, is an area of global foreign policy that Secretary Clinton has determined needs increased focus and emphasis including because of its role in global economic growth and security. These things reflect the importance both our countries place on the relationship and on the issues and opportunities in the energy sector here. Deputy Minister Widjajono, Director General Legowo: Thank you for hosting us in this wonderful country; I hope that this roundtable and related meetings are productive and demonstrate the depth of U.S. commitment to Indonesia’s energy prosperity.
Ladies and gentlemen the reality, something that has surprised many Americans, is that in 2010 the United States produced more natural gas than any country in the world; more than all the countries of the Middle East combined. That one fact alone should give you an idea of the transformative effect of unconventional gas in my country. President Obama mentioned this transformation in his remarks to the Congress in the State of the Union last month. During the last decade, production of unconventional natural gas, which includes shale gas, tight gas, and coalbed methane, grew to reach more than 50 percent of annual U.S. natural gas output. Development of domestic shale gas resources – resources that were once thought technologically and economically unfeasible – has been made possible due to a combination of U.S. government support for research and development and private sector entrepreneurship. The story is not finished; even as we have overcome some of the hurdles to shale gas development, we continue to examine ways to avoid and mitigate environmental and other concerns. The message of this experience is clear, however: The global energy market is changing, and if the right steps are taken, there is a strong potential that responsible unconventional natural gas development will have a significant positive impact on the economic well-being and energy security of Indonesia, as well as of many other countries around the world.
The United States deeply welcomes your interest in examining the potential that unconventional natural gas resources can offer – potentials that need to be developed with attention to the legal, regulatory, environmental, and safety challenges these technologies can pose. The experience of the United States government, and the expertise gained by our private sector,may be useful to Indonesia as it considers going down this road, and we are happy to share it with you and with others who have these resources.
Benefits: Increased Unconventional Gas Production in the U.S. and Globally
Backing up a bit, it is important to recognize explicitly that access to reliable, sustainable, and affordable energy is inextricably connected to increased economic development and a higher quality of life. For most countries, and especially ones as large and economically dynamic as the United States or Indonesia, there is no one single solution to meet the growing energy security concerns as demand for energy in our countries and around the world climbs. All options must be on the table, options that include hydrocarbons, renewables, and geothermal energy as well as increasing the efficiency in how industry, business, and private consumers use energy resources.
The United States Energy Information Administration projects that, due to increased domestic production, the U.S. will be almost completely self-sufficient in natural gas by 2035. Not that long ago, analysts maintained the U.S. would be importing 65% of our natural gas by 2035. We have granted export licenses already for two facilities to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States, exports which could begin as early as 2014 or 2015. If someone had suggested that just five years ago, they probably would have been laughed at.
Unconventional natural gas production has not only cut our reliance on external suppliers, but it has also meant job creation, a growing resurgence of the chemical industry, the potential to replace coal fired power plants with cleaner burning natural gas, increasing the use of natural gas for transportation, and even potentially employing gas-to-liquid processes that could most immediately offset the use of oil (the price of which is increasingly on the rise). The U.S. experience provides a possible analogue that allows us to speculate about new futures. One recent International Energy Agency analysis considers a scenario of a golden age of gas – in which gas use, on an oil equivalent basis, begins to approach that of oil by 2035. This development has massive consequences, especially in China and the Middle East, if diversification provides a chance to reduce both CO2 emissions and prices.
Let’s talk about prices for a moment. Traditionally the price of natural gas has been linked to the prices consumers pay for oil. While there are world-wide prices for crude, there has been no single world-wide price for natural gas. Pipeline networks along with the proximity of traditional sources of natural gas played a key role in how gas was priced in a market.
Thus, today there are roughly three major markets for natural gas, in North America, Europe and Asia, and each has a different price for natural gas; prices that can differ significantly. In Asia, natural gas often costs three to four times what it does in the United States. Thanks to the development and production of unconventional gas, along with an extensive system for getting that gas to markets, the United States has the cheapest natural gas in the world; we currently pay less than $3 per million btu, as compared to about $9 mmbtu in Western Europe and up to $15 mmbtu in Japan. If Indonesia were able to realize its unconventional gas potential, increased production could mean more gas available to meet Indonesia’s growing energy needs without having to reduce the country’s role as a leading natural gas exporter.
In the last 5 years, LNG that had been originally slated for U.S. markets has been diverted to European spot markets, forcing gas-on-gas competition as Russian suppliers had to accept lower prices for pipeline gas.
In East Asia, recent pricing changes in China that would liberalize natural gas well head prices to reflect market prices could help spur larger development of unconventional natural gas resources. This step could help meet China’s growing energy needs (reduce China’s dependence on natural gas imports) and affect the dynamics of global gas markets.
Our expectations, and the expectations of many others, are that the world will continue to see a growing demand for natural gas, including as a means to lower greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants, as well as a means to improve their energy security. Indonesia is among those who could stand to benefit by realizing this unconventional gas potential.
It is important and timely that we are here today in Jakarta talking about natural gas. Canada, Mexico, Australia, China, and South Africa and numerous others have potentially significant shale gas resources. Quantifying the recoverability of these resources will require years’ worth of technical assessment, exploratory drilling and production modeling. Even in the United States, where the shale gas industry is more than a decade old, the extent of our ultimately recoverable shale gas reserves is uncertain. What is clear, however, is that sizable increases in domestic gas production can be obtained in countries that do have this resource and that have undertaken the steps needed with respect to instituting the right regulatory, political, legal and commercial frameworks to make their shale industries sustainable.
Challenges to Unconventional Natural Gas Development
These steps should not be ignored; the global revolution in the production of unconventional gas is not without challenges. Take shale gas, for example. To realize fully the potential this resource holds, countries must take into account factors affecting the environment and public safety. These aspects must be given serious attention. As many of you no doubt know, there has been public discussion, particularly at the state and local levels in my country, about the safety and reliability of the technology and chemicals used in drilling for and extracting shale gas. Not just in response, but to stay ahead of the curve regarding the various aspects of shale gas production, the U. S. Secretary of Energy has established an Advisory Board for shale gas production to examine and improve the safety and environmental impact of shale gas development.
Through public meetings and extensive consultations on issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, the advisory board developed a report that calls for stronger public communication, improving federal and state regulations, reducing emissions of air pollutants, and eliminating the use of diesel fuel in fracturing fluids. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also preparing an extensive report on the impact of hydraulic fracturing on water resources, including groundwater that should be completed in 2014. The preliminary results, however, will be released at the end of this year. Both of these reports should provide further information and improve best practices among all stakeholders involved. The United States is fully committed to sharing these lessons learned with other countries interested in exploiting their shale gas potential.
An attractive investment climate is another essential component for unconventional natural gas development for foreign and domestic investors alike, as is an adequate infrastructure. To underscore this point, the IEA projects that from 2011 to 2035 $38 trillion worth of investment in power generation, exploration and production, and infrastructure development will be required to meet global energy demand. Most of that investment is expected to occur in non-OECD countries such as Indonesia since that is where more than eighty-percent of this demand increase is expected to occur.
In the United States, geologists knew for decades that shale gas existed, but its geological complexity and associated high economic costs made its extraction unprofitable. However, with the right investment climate in place – a climate which included deregulation of prices, early tax incentives, a predictable regulatory process, and grants for research and development – the United States was able to make investment in this sector more attractive and industry was able to break the shale gas code through technological innovations and greater efficiencies.
Governments alone are not going provide the money needed; to develop these energy resources, the private sector will need to make – and will need to want to make – investments of money and know-how. Furthermore, as we have seen in the United States, industry can be a partner in efforts to counter the negative environmental impacts of unconventional natural gas development. These efforts include multi-well drilling pads, water recycling, the development of hydraulic-fracturing techniques that require less harmful chemicals, and the use of natural gas instead of diesel to fuel drilling equipment. Industry has also been willing on occasion to disclose the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, at times complying with government regulatory measures before they were established. All these steps resulted in a lower environmental footprint. Industry best practices do not replace sound regulations, but they demonstrate how government and industry can function as partners, not adversaries, in the development of new energy supplies.
All this brings me to the Department of State’s Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program, formerly known as the Global Shale Gas Initiative. The name change reflects our focus, on the need to focus, on all sources of unconventional gas, not just shale gas. It highlights too the potential these various sources have to make a significant impact on long-term global energy security and the challenges posed by their potentially harmful impacts. This government-to-government program is an important tool for sharing with other countries the experiences we have had in the United States with the development and production of shale gas and other nonconventional gas and oil resources, and what various levels of government – federal, state, and local – and industry have found to be the best practices associated with unconventional gas development. The program also seeks to inform other countries about the myriad technical, operational, environmental, regulatory, legal and commercial challenges and issues that need to be addressed in order to create a sustainable unconventional gas sector. We invite Indonesia to further its unconventional gas development process by participating in this program.
Deputy Minister Widjajono, Director General Legowo, ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, let me again say that unconventional gas is continuing to transform the energy outlook of the United States in dramatic ways, and could potentially transform Indonesia’s energy outlook as well. However there are very important pre-conditions that make that transformation possible, and chief among them are an attractive investment climate and stable regulatory framework, policies that provide the right mix of incentives and environmental protection, and the right commercial expertise and technology to exploit safely these gas resources.
While the world faces significant and difficult challenges on the energy front – there are over 1.3 billion people in the world today without adequate access to energy – it seems that the steps needed to boost people’s economic well-being will inevitably result in greater demand for energy even with all our efforts to produce energy more sustainably and utilize it more efficiently than in the past. Moreover, we must strive to decrease greenhouse gases even as we work to meet these increased energy needs. Fortunately there are steps we can take to meet these needs while boosting our countries’ energy security. The development and production of unconventional natural gas resources have made significant contributions to improving the energy security and economic outlook of the United States.
There is no “one size fits all” or magic single answer for countries working to meet these challenges. Nevertheless it may well be that if the right steps are taken and appropriate measures adopted, unconventional natural gas could have a significant impact on the energy security of many countries, including Indonesia.
Indonesia stands poised to benefit from a global market that increasingly looks to natural gas for many uses, including as the bridge-fuel technology to a lower carbon energy future. Through engagement with our private sector, through dialogues such as today’s, and programs such as the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program, we look forward to advancing our strategic partnership for energy security into a long and fruitful future. Thank you for your attention and thank you for hosting us in this extraordinary country.
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