By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. Originally published at at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.
I want to draw a distinction between Sanders and Clinton on fossil fuel and climate change, in particular on fossil fuel extraction from public lands — lands owned by the public and managed by the federal government.
As you likely know, the government auctions off drilling and extraction rights on public lands to the coal, oil and gas industry. This is not nothing; there’s a lot of carbon extracted from federal lands. Carbon extraction from public lands and water accounts for 25% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 40% of all U.S. coal production.
So, not nothing, not by a long shot. From the invaluable DesmogBlog:
Fossil Fuels from Federal Lands Create One Quarter of Total U.S. Carbon Emissions, New Report Concludes
A newly released analysis by the Climate Accountability Institute concludes that fossil fuels extracted from federal lands release carbon equal to a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The rate has stayed roughly consistent from 2003 to 2014.
When it comes to coal, the rate was even higher than average last year, the report concluded. “In 2014, two-fifths (40.2 percent) of U.S. coal production was from leases on Federal Lands; production on Indian Lands accounted for an additional 1.9 percent of U.S. coal production,” wrote Rick Heede, author of the analysis.
“My calculations find that the Department of Interior’s management of leases authorizing the extraction of fossil fuels on the public lands under its management results in approximately 25 percent of U.S. carbon emissions in the past decade,” Mr. Heede added in a statement. “25 percent is very significant for one single legal entity, governmental or private, and responsibility for 3-4 percent of global fossil fuel emissions should warrant the attention by policymakers and the White House.”
The report comes at a time when the Department of the Interior is considering reforms to its mineral rights leasing program, which has come under fire from taxpayer advocates as well as environmental groups.
Note that this is managed by the Department of the Interior, which means the Executive Branch. Which means the president can tell them what to do and not do.
Sanders and Clinton on Carbon Extraction and Public Land Use
One of our two candidates will end this extraction completely, and one won’t. Via Daily Kos diarist astral66, we find this, a group of statements made in the context of the Nevada caucus:
Bernie Draws Line In Nevada Desert: Vows To “Ban All Fossil Fuel Extraction From Public Land”
The Reno Gazette-Journal has been providing excellent coverage of the upcoming caucuses in Nevada. Today they published “Caucus prep: Hillary, Bernie answer 6 Nevada questions.” The questions cover such topics as immigration, drought, renewable energy, recreational marijuana, online gaming, and federal lands management. The answers draw a contrast between the two candidates and [I] highly recommend reading the whole article. I find the responses to the federal lands management issue to be significant.
Here’s a portion of Sanders’ answer regarding land management (my emphasis):
In my view, we must strengthen, not weaken our public lands system. Our public lands are national treasures for future generations.
Public lands should be managed for the benefit and enjoyment of all Americans, and not just the oil and gas, mining, and timber companies that have had disproportionate influence in management decisions on federal lands.
We can balance natural resource conservation AND appropriate the use of public lands to create jobs and promote economic growth.
But to my mind, we must end the sweetheart mining concessions and leasing rate practices that allow these industries to profit at the expense of American taxpayers.
We must ban all fossil fuel extraction from public land, and I have co-sponsored important legislation to do just that. …
And here’s Clinton:
Public lands in Nevada and across the West provide a wide range of benefits, from open spaces for recreation to resources that support grazing, energy production, and other uses. It is vital that the priorities, needs, and vision of local communities help shape the management of America’s public lands, and I would work to improve and support local, state, and federal collaboration.
Only one of them gets it on climate. Either we end emissions (dead stop), or we don’t. If we don’t, we heat the atmosphere until something else stops us.
If We Don’t Stop Voluntarily, We’ll Be Stopped
At some point, the only answer is to stop burning carbon. The only way to end the heating of the planet is to end the burning of fossil fuel (including biomass, by the way) and end it completely. If we don’t stop, the planet will continually heat and we’ll be stopped, by devolution to a pre-industrial state, or worse.
Neither choice is a good one. And if you think about it, do we really want to cannibalize the civilized lifes of uncountable future generations for our, what? Our “modern energy” TV and iPhone convenience? Put that way, neither choice — devolution or worse — is a moral one.
Sanders gets this, that we simply must stop, and he’s the only one on the presidential stage now who does. Clinton doesn’t, or she thinks the stopping can happen well after she’s under the tombstone I recently designed for her. You know, the one that says:
First woman president
The last person on earth
with a clear shot at preserving civilization.
Too bad she didn’t take it.
R.I.P., all of us
Why do I think she won’t take that shot? Because she has said she won’t.
Clinton Refuses to Reject Fossil Fuel or the Industry’s Money
See the video up top. The relevant parts of the caption is this. Clinton was asked
“whether she’ll reject fossil fuel money moving forward. Pointing her finger at activist Eva Resnick-Day, Clinton claimed she only takes money from people who work for fossil fuel companies and called the accusations lies.”
In the narrowest technical way, but only that, she’s right. Her hand doesn’t take the money from their hands. Her campaign’s hands, though, and her PACs hands, take money from their lobbyists hands. Do you still buy Clinton’s explanation of why she “doesn’t take money” from fossil fuel corporations?
Here’s the detail from Vice News. Note the word ” interests” below. It’s broader than just “the corporations” themselves by including, for one thing, their lobbyists.
Fossil Fuel Investors Are Pumping Millions of Dollars Into Hillary Clinton’s Campaign
Fossil fuel interests have pumped $3.25 million into the largest super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the White House.
Approximately one in every 15 dollars given to Priorities USA Action, which took in $50.5 million in contributions last year, came from donors linked to oil and natural gas interests, according to data compiled by Greenpeace.
But fossil fuel interests are also sending checks directly to her campaign. Clinton has take in nearly $268,000 in contributions from individuals employed in the oil and gas sector this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who does not have a super PAC spending on his behalf, took in just over $35,000….
So Clinton’s accusation of “lies” rests on the fact that while she personally takes no money from fossil fuel company employees, she lets her PAC and her bundlers rake it in from the industry and its lobbyists.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been backed by the fossil fuel industry in a number of ways.
First there are the direct contributions from people working for fossil fuel companies to Hillary Clinton’s campaign committee. According to the most recent filings, the committee has received $309,107 (as of 3/21/16; source: Center for Responsive Politics) from such donors[.]
Next are the fossil fuel lobbyists, many of whom have also bundled contributions. These donations also flow to Hillary Clinton’s campaign committee. Greenpeace has tracked $1,259,280 in bundled and direct donations from lobbyists currently registered as lobbying for the fossil fuel industry. This number excludes donations from lobbyists who are employed directly by a fossil fuel companies, as those donations would have been included in the previous number.
Last are contributions from fossil fuel interests to Super PACs supporting Hillary Clinton. Greenpeace has found $3,250,000 in donations from large donors connected to the fossil fuel industry to Priorities Action USA, a Super PAC supporting Secretary Clinton’s campaign.
All told, the campaign to elect Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 has received more than $4.5 million from lobbyists, bundlers, and large donors connected [to] the fossil fuel industry.
Number of oil, gas and coal industry lobbyists that have made direct contributions to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign: 57[:]
- 57 registered oil, coal and gas lobbyists have personally given $126,200 to the Hillary campaign
- Of those 57, 11 are bundlers.
- 11 lobbyists have bundled $1,140,930 in contributions to the Hillary campaign
- 43 lobbyists have contributed the maximum allowed ($2700).
- Lobbyists who have reported lobbying for the oil and gas industry – both in-house company lobbyists and hired lobbyists from “K-Street firms.”
This does not include:
- Industry executives
- Other employees of the oil and gas industry
- Board members
- Corporate PAC contributions
- Contributions by major investors
- Donations to Super PACS or non-profit groups
- Contributions made by trade associations to Super PACs
Hillary takes more from lobbyists in general than any other candidate
Total amount bundled from oil and gas lobbyists: $1,140,930
The activist in the video above, by the way, was a Greenpeace activist, not a member of the Sanders campaign, even though that’s what Clinton evidently assumed. Note also that Greenpeace is the driver, through it’s pledge and the above memo, of this part of the debate, not the Sanders campaign.
There’s a video here with a highly parsed, longer explanation from Clinton at an earlier town hall. Watch if you like, or don’t, but if you do, note how much wiggle room she gives herself, and also that she ties herself to no schedule for a transition away from carbon. Much of the money she’s getting, in fact, is from the owners of that “transition” fuel, methane, another deadly greenhouse gas.
About Her Anger…
Watch that video at the top again, if you can, and note her anger. That anger sounds pretty real, not faked at all. Is it because she’s being caught out? Or because she doesn’t know she’s hyper-parsing the answer?
Or perhaps is it because her campaign is losing momentum by the day, their internal polling is not good, and she’s very frustrated? If the latter, it’s quite a tell. I can’t imagine working on the inside of that campaign at the moment.
How You Can Help Sanders
Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president.
- Time to contribute?
- Time to phone-bank for Bernie?
- Time to make sure all of your friends come out to vote?
Seems so to me. And thanks!