Clinton Chasing Votes With Fracking U-Turn

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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.

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  1. sd

    Hillary Clinton said that Nancy Reagan started a much needed “national conversation” about AIDS in the United States. Nothing could have been further than the truth. And now we are supposed to believe Clinton has had something important to say about fracking?

    Clinton makes up her own reality as she goes along. She makes her own rules. She issues her own opinions. She creates her own facts. She commits to nothing but that which appeals in the moment.

    Why does anyone give her an ounce of credibility on anything?

    1. Pat

      Aids, Alzheimer’s they both begin with A. People jumble things all the time, but considering she still was appalled by gay marriage less than half a decade ago not to mention her lack of help regarding stem cell research for things like Alzheimers when Bush was being an asshole about it I’m not willing to cut her a break for it.

      1. sd

        The actual quote…she didn’t have to go there. She could have just left it at her own personal respect for Nancy Reagan. But no, she had to invent some special moment of nonexistent empathy during an incredibly painful period of time when a tidal wave of death washed over the gay community.

        It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s, and because of both President and Mrs. Reagan — in particular Mrs. Reagan — we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it, and that, too, is something I really appreciate with her very effective low-key advocacy. It penetrated the public conscience and people began to say, “Hey, we have to do something about this too.”

        Clinton made something up because it sounded good at the time.

        1. Pat

          I apologize. I never saw the full quote. That is really vile. The truncated one I saw would have allowed it to be a thoughtless mix up with Nancy’s fierce but self interested advocacy of stem cell research. This…I have no words.

  2. Pat

    The certain conditions that must be met for Clinton have nothing to do with what is best for community. Mind you they only have a little to do with the major corporations. As with everything else, Clinton will support anything that garners her the best return of what she needs at that moment.

    Unfortunately most Clinton voters do not understand that as soon as they have cast their vote they have lost any leverage they have with her. At that point the people who will hire her, or her husband, to speak to them for about $10,000/a word, OR will make five figure donations to the Clinton Foundation, AND/OR will back her next campaign once again determine the conditions Clinton consider important. Which is why any support for a position that includes any ‘conditions’ or ‘circumstances’ or she has to know more about is pretty much guaranteed to be thrown out.

    And just as the ‘conventional’ wisdom is shortsighted on things like regime change and continued drone bombing and their effects, it is wrong about fracking. Destroying the water table IS going to happen, and that will have a detrimental effect on agriculture. We also don’t know how that pollution will spread out over time.
    It is stupid and destructive and so not worth it whether it is in upstate New York or Romania.

    1. Peter Bernhardt

      I remember this from Mad magazine way, way back, imagining this quote from Richard Nixon: “You can fool all of the people some of the time; you can fool some of the people all of the time; but here is where I make a liar out of Lincoln.”

      The more things change, the more they stay the same. Replace Nixon with Clinton and Bob’s your uncle.

  3. jrs

    So Clinton is for fracking except when she’s against it or vice versa, and is taking oil and gas money.

    Meanwhile Trump is for ending the Paris climate deal, repealing any meager climate and water regulations Obama has passed, and developing energy on public lands (a bird landing a a Trump podium would presumably be a dead one).

    Guess Clinton may be the LOTE there, but what a catastrophe the U.S. and it’s political system are for the whole world, and pity the whole world that gets this insanity. Of course Sanders position is the decent one.

    1. Qrys

      +1 this: “a bird landing a a Trump podium would presumably be a dead one”

      Yes, indeed-y, though just as applicable to every repugnican holding office today.

    2. crittermom

      In reply to jrs…
      +2 on all your points.

      “…(a bird landing at a Trump podium would presumably be a dead one).”
      More than likely, yes. I believe if a bird landed on Trumps podium while he was wooing his misguided masses, he’d most likely smash it with his fist. (Personally, I’d probably die laughing if one happened to poop on his pompadour)

      If one landed on Hellary’s podium, she’d probably call in an air strike on it, mad that it took her spotlight & made her lose her place in her robotic speech.

      Hellary has proven she will say whatever she thinks those listening to her at that moment want to hear.
      She’ll reverse her position for the next crowd, if necessary. It’s all about the end game to her & she feels somehow justified in her lies, as she does so without guilt & whines about being personally verbally attacked when someone points them out.

      I remain shocked, amazed & saddened that she has ANY supporters.

      Side note: It felt great yesterday when I donated some of my work (I’m a wildlife & western photographer) to a Bernie campaign office for a silent auction coming up to benefit Bernie’s campaign.
      I also voted early (our primary is June 7) on my way there, resulting in a good day!

  4. PlutoniumKun

    I don’t think taking an anti-fracking stance hurts Clinton at all with donors. They know full well that anything said in the campaign is for the consumption of suckers only. If she is elected, she knows who the important people are.

  5. Roger Smith

    A friend once said (regarding the Sanders v. Clinton fracking debate answers), “I think the nuanced answer is more appropriate in this case.”


  6. Praedor

    If she could be trusted I wouldn’t have a problem with her conditions for allowing fracking. If a community actually wants to poison their own water and peoplem, then go for it. A further condition should require fracking companies to be fully on the hook to cleanup pollution or provide clean water, gratis, to any who see their wells polluted. But she cannot be trusted so…

    1. jhallc

      You can write as many rules and regulations as you want but, without any enforcement they will be useless. When the contamination occurs, and it will, the responsible parties will just figure out a way to get around paying for the clean-up which will be 1000x as expensive as drilling and taxpayers will end up footing the bill.

    2. John Wright

      One can visualize thinly capitalized corporations doing the fracking, grabbing the profits until the TSHTF and then walking away.

      This is the way of short term very profitable businesses, as Northern California pot growers learned that in the event of asset forfeiture if they were caught by the Feds, the growers simply levered up everything and extracted and hid the cash.

      The government would not confiscate a piece of property, used in pot production, that was 95% owned by Wells-Fargo.

      “Fully on the hook” may mean nothing if there is little equity at the fracking firm.

  7. Vatch

    Yet another Hillary Clinton flip flop. When she thinks she needs votes, she changes her position. But when it’s time to implement policy, or create legislation, she does what her plutocratic donors expect. Why do people believe anything that she says?

  8. Lambert Strether

    It’s also important to remember that fracking was forced onto the agenda by fracking activists working locally. I would bet — since it would be irresponsible not to speculate — that most of them are supporting Sanders, partially accounting for the self-organizing character of the Sanders coalition (as distinct from the PUMAs of 2008). So this U-turn may have more important electoral impact than we think. (IIRC, Sanders unexpectedly took Oklahoma. Where all the fracking earthquakes are.)

    1. Ishmael

      The earthquakes in Oklahoma are due mainly to waste water disposal from the Oklahoma City field secondary recovery efforts than fracing per geologists.

  9. Deloss Brown

    First, let me say that I’m a Bernie man, not a Hillary person. Spare me your vituperation.

    I don’t agree with Irina Slav that “it’s considered good manners, if nothing else, to avoid radically changing your stance on important political and economic issues such as energy.” Bernie may not win the nomination, but one of the reasons I wanted him to stay in the race is that his advocacy pushes the entire argument to the left. If, as a result of her desire to beat Bernie, Hillary changes her position to oppose fracking, I think that’s a good thing.

    Yes, I read all the posts and the “But ifs” etc. But she may be our Democratic candidate. We want her to be as far left as possible, and if that means she changes her positions, tant mieux. (French for “so much the better”).

    Confusion to our enemies.

    1. Vatch

      I’m a Bernie supporter, too. And I think that if Hillary wins the nomination, she’ll start to shed the leftist positions that she has acquired over the past several months. She’ll move back to the right.

      1. Deloss Brown

        Vatch, she may move right if elected. But the damage will have been done. Both Democratic candidates will have expressed, and argued, that fracking is not good, and the electorate may have (we hope) been educated about the subject and taken a position. Such circumstances would make it more difficult for Hillary to move right, and will cause the voters to regard with disapproval anybody who advocates expanded fracking.

  10. Synoia

    Hillary is clearly on the $ide of her own intere$t$. She’d throw Bill and Chel$ea under the bu$ without remor$e to become pre$ident.

  11. TheCatSaid

    “Apparently, the strategy of changing positions to suit the moment and the target audience is working, distasteful as it may seem to observers.”

    I don’t know if this is true or not. Given the mass problems with our election systems–lack of observability, lack of accountability, lack of chain of custody, and now Black Box’s damning “Fraction Magic” report, I don’t think we know much about the real results of many of our elections (local, state, national) going back many decades.

  12. different clue

    Could people in jurisdictions which use fully electronic voting systems bring themselves to boycott all elections in those jurisdictions until voting systems were changed to Legal Paper Ballot systems? What percent of the electorate in those jurisdictions would have to boycott in a VISible way until the change were forced? By “visible” I means something like showing up at the poling place, “seeing” the machines are still touch-screen or some other digital pre-fraudulated system, and walking out after saying something like ” I don’t vote on fraud machines”.

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