Recently two liberal activists have publicly stated their positions in the Democratic presidential primary: Bill McKibben endorsed Sanders and Tom Hayden endorsed Clinton. With the campaigns moving into territory like New York, Pennsylvania and eventually California, it is interesting to compare what these two men said about the candidate’s positions on climate change (especially fracking).
McKibben mostly critiques Clinton for her “evolution” on issues.
Ties to the past define Hillary Clinton’s campaign. She’s run on her experience, and she’s relied on senior voters for her margins of victory. Her call is for slow and evolutionary change, for a “realism” that rejects the supposedly romantic and idealistic hopes of her competitor.
At least on climate change, slow and evolutionary change is another way of giving up. Because the world is changing so damned fast.
Here’s why he supports Sanders.
…mostly it’s because there’s never been any need for his positions on these issues to evolve. Keystone? “No” in September 2011, not in September 2015. He co-sponsored the bill to stop fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Fracking? Nothing complicated, just a simple, “No.”
Hayden discusses other issues in his endorsement. But here is what he said about the candidate’s positions on climate change.
Hillary wants limits on fracking: a ban where individual states have blocked it, like in New York; safeguards against children’s and family exposures; a ban where releases of methane or contamination of ground water are proven; and full disclosure of the chemicals used in the process. Bernie’s position is that he’s simply against all fracking.
But Hillary’s position goes beyond what virtually any state has done. The New York Times writes that she “has pledged to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry to pay for her ambitious climate plan” and intends to install 500 million solar collectors in four years. If and when Obama’s Clean Power Plan is upheld in the federal courts, now a likelihood after Justice Scalia’s death, that will bring a even greater change.
Meanwhile, Bernie’s total fracking ban leaves the question of how to do so unaddressed. His energy platform is comprehensive, but he offers no strategy to implement the Paris Summit in the short term. Instead, Bernie will call his own summit of experts in the first hundred days he is president. There is no recognition of the overwhelming wall of opposition from the Republican Congress, which can only be broken on state-by-state organizing. The climate clock is ticking towards doomsday. Where are we moving next, beyond waiting for the overthrow of Citizens United?
I’ve become accustomed to hearing that Sanders is more “progressive” on climate change than Clinton. So after reading these two endorsements, I decided to compare what their campaign web sites say about this issue (Clinton and Sanders). Other than the differences on fracking discussed above, I found very little daylight between the two of them. They both want to transition away from fossil fuels, invest in clean energy development and infrastructure, end tax subsidies for oil and gas companies and lead the world in combating climate change.
As Hayden notes, Sanders’ plan includes one unique proposal:
Convene a climate summit with the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities in his first 100 days. The United Nations Paris climate talks in December are an important milestone toward solving climate change, but even optimistic outcomes of these talks will not put the world on the path needed to avoid the most catastrophic results of climate change. We must think beyond Paris. In the first 100 days of Bernie’s Presidency, he will convene a summit of the world’s best climate experts to chart a course toward the healthy future we all want for our families and communities.
Clinton’s plan also includes one unique proposal.
Building a 21st century clean energy economy will create new jobs and industries, protect public health, and reduce carbon pollution. But we can’t ignore the impact this transition is already having on coal communities. Hillary’s $30 billion plan to revitalize coal communities will ensure coal miners, power plant operators, transportation workers, and their families get the respect they deserve and the benefits they have earned; invest in economic diversification and job creation; and make coal communities an engine of US economic growth in the 21st century, as they have been for generations.
In the end, unless you base your decision on the differences between these candidate’s position on fracking or the importance of supporting those who are being impacted by the death of coal, I don’t see how either of them lays claim to being more progressive on this issue.