Sanders and Clinton Both Against Fracking: Flint Democratic Debate

The candidates are either ignorant or pandering



During the Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders both weighed in against hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling to produce oil and natural gas. Never mind that the fracking revolution has essentially doubled U.S. daily oil production from a recent low of 5 million barrels in 2008 to nearly 10 million barrels now. The same technology has also greatly increased daily domestic natural gas production from 44 billion cubic feet in 2005 to 76 billion cubic feet now. Rising U.S. oil and gas production has been partially responsible for the recent steep fall in the prices for both. In fact, production of both has increased so much that the U.S. is actually exporting crude oil and natural gas.

When asked about fracking Secretary Clinton answered:

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.

Sanders responded:

My answer is a lot shorter. No, I do not support fracking. … And I talk to scientists who tell me that fracking is doing terrible things to water systems all over this country.

First, contrary to assertions by both Clinton and Sanders, a preliminary report from the Environmental Protection Agency last year noted that the agency's scientists "did not find evidence" that fracking has "led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States." Second, most states already require that drilling companies reveal what chemicals they are using to frack wells and list them on the FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry.

Third, the ongoing switch from coal to natural gas (methane) to generate electricity is largely responsible, according to the EPA, for the recent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from 7.4 billion tons in 2005 to 6.9 billion tons in 2014. (On the other hand, some recent research suggests that U.S. methane emissions into the atmosphere have also increased, but burning natural gas has offset the global warming effects of any such increase.)

Clinton and Sanders either (A) don't know the actual results of research on fracking or (B) they are simply pandering to the environmentalist wing of their party. I pick (B).