Independent Vermont senator and Democratic presidential underdog Bernie Sanders has illustrated his lack of understanding when it comes to hydraulic fracturing — better known as “fracking.” On Monday, Sanders proposed a nation-wide ban on the procedure, which supplies more than half of the oil and gas in the United States.
Sanders introduced a law to ban extraction of fossil fuels on federal lands last fall, but in a speech in Birmingham, New York, the senator extended his position to a complete ban on fracking in the United States. An expert on the issue told PJ Media that Sanders’ position shows he lacks any real understanding of the issue, and of just how safe and vital the procedure is.
“In my view, if we are serious about safe and clean drinking water, if we are serious about clean air, if we are serious about combating climate change, we need to put an end to fracking not only in New York and Vermont, but all over this country,” Sanders declared.
New York state will allocate 247 delegates in the Democratic primary, and frontrunner Hillary Clinton leads Sanders by 14 points in her adopted state, according to the RealClearPolitics average. New York banned fracking despite the state’s large shale gas resources, while neighboring Pennsylvania did not. Sanders’ push against the controversial procedure may be seen as an attempt to woo the state’s voters.
Isaac Orr, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute who specializes in hydraulic fracturing, insisted that Sanders is not really pandering on this issue, however. “Say what you want about Bernie and how unworkable his ideas are, but they are his sincerely held beliefs,” Orr explained.
“I think his real disdain for fossil fuels comes from the fact that they have money,” the expert added. “It doesn’t seem like Sanders knows a lot about fracking.” Orr pointed to a multi-year study the Environmental Protection Agency released last June which unequivocally stated that there are no signs of “widespread, systemic” water pollution due to fracking. While there have been isolated instances of water contamination, they are rare compared to the number of wells drilled.
Fracking is not just relatively safe, however: it also provides hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, many of these in swing states. Hydraulic fracturing accounts for nearly 73,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, 100,000 jobs in Colorado, and 186,000 jobs in Ohio.
“It’s thousands of jobs that are really high-paying,” Orr explained. “People in the oil and gas industry are making way more than $15 an hour,” he added, referring to the battle to raise the minimum wage to $15, which Sanders supports. “For a guy who wants everyone to make a living wage he sure makes it tough to have a business environment that facilitates that.”
Orr also noted Clinton’s opposition to fracking, which she declared at the Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan. The former secretary of state promised to restrict fracking, regulating it nearly out of existence.
“The criteria that she mentioned are already being adhered to,” Orr responded, noting that there is fracking in 30 of the 50 states.
Next Page: If fracking is so safe and valuable, why do people oppose it?
If fracking is so safe and valuable, why do people oppose it? Orr argued that there is a lot of ignorance and superstition in the anti-fracking movement.
“These are probably the people who would sign a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide,” the expert noted, using the chemistry term for water. “It’s almost like environmentalism has become a religious aspect — anything that humans do is bad.”
Orr criticized Sanders’s campaign as “duping the people who don’t think for themselves.” Sanders backs policies which would have a real negative impact on the economy, but aren’t grounded in good science. People support these things because they care about the environment and are intensely suspicious of new technology.
Nevertheless, “fracking is safe when you do it correctly, when the standards are followed.” Orr explained that it would actually be best for the environment if all fracking around the world were done in the United States. “If you do it in the United States, the environmental standards are higher. In terms of the global environment, doing it here is better than doing it in other places.”
When Bernie Sanders opposes corporate welfare, he’s on to something, but when he proposes a nationwide ban on fracking, he shows just how ignorant he is on economic issues. Then again, Clinton’s comments weren’t that good, either.