By Irina Slav, a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry. Originally published at OilPrice
Leaked emails obtained by The Intercept reveal Hillary Clinton’s multiple stances on fracking—which apparently differ depending on whether we’re talking about fracking on U.S. soil or abroad.
At a debate with Bernie Sanders in New York in early April, Hillary Clinton said she doesn’t support fracking, unless certain conditions are met, such as acceptance from the community and full disclosure of the chemicals that will be used in the process of releasing oil and gas from shale rock.
Just four years ago, however, she was quick to point fingers at communities abroad who were fighting proposed fracking projects in Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria, as leaked emails obtained by The Intercept reveal. At that time, she promoted fracking – more specifically gas fracking – as a way for any country, especially those in Europe, to achieve energy independence (from Russia).
Now, it’s a well-known fact that politicians care above all about their own voters—and are less concerned with the voters of another politician in another country. It’s also a well-known fact that people in their capacity as voters have notoriously short memories and tend to forget what this or that politician did four years ago.
Still, it’s considered good manners, if nothing else, to avoid radically changing your stance on important political and economic issues such as energy. Yet, this is something that the most likely Democratic presidential candidate is either unable or unwilling to do.
Bernie Sanders is very vocal about his anti-fossil fuels stance, a stance that has been one of the reasons he has achieved such success among liberals. Clinton is apparently ready to do anything to win these liberal votes, including making yet one more U-turn regarding her position on fracking.
During her term as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made no attempt to hide her international energy ambitions, which could be easily summed up as more locally produced gas for everyone, and more profits for the American companies that would pump that gas. Pretty much the usual run-of-the-mill approach to nurturing large corporate taxpayers and campaign supporters. Now, it seems, Clinton is ready to antagonize these same corporate campaign supporters in order to win more liberal votes.
This approach risks alienating more than just the energy industry, as Jude Clemente rightly noted in an article for Forbes that offers a comprehensive summary of all the benefits the U.S. has reaped from fracking (although it fails to mention the risks). He warned that she might lose Ohio and Pennsylvania with her new anti-fracking position, but Clinton won both states, which are heavily dependent on gas fracking. In Ohio, she got the upper hand before declaring her new anti-fracking stance, but her Pennsylvania victory came after the New York debate. Apparently, the strategy of changing positions to suit the moment and the target audience is working, distasteful as it may seem to observers.
But there could be more to Clinton’s shift from a pro-fracking to a (conditional) anti-fracking stance. Gas prices in the U.S. are at historic lows thanks to oversupply. The economic viability of LNG exports is still doubtful. Curbing production is the most direct way to stimulate prices and increase returns for energy companies. What’s more, to be fair, when Clinton talked about her conditions for fracking, she meant American communities and producers. She didn’t say anything about gas fracking abroad. From that angle, her position could actually be seen as quite consistent, although it’s unlikely to win her many friends and fans.