Hillary Clinton Wades Into Debate Over Fracking But Avoids Keystone XL

CREDIT: AP/ Bebeto Matthews

Hillary Clinton speaks during her keynote remarks at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves summit, Friday Nov. 21, 2014 in New York.

Speaking to an influential gathering of environmental leaders on Monday, Hillary Clinton expressed concerns relating to the natural gas boom but continued to eschew commenting on the politically explosive Keystone XL pipeline. In a 10-minute speech at a fundraiser for the League of Conservation Voters in midtown Manhattan, Clinton scolded climate deniers, praised green technology, stood behind market-based solutions to limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and said both the science and political challenges associated with climate change are “unforgiving.”

“There is no getting around the fact that the kind of ambitious response required to combat climate change is going to be a tough sell at home as well as around the world,” Clinton said.

Perpetuating her mum stance on the Keystone XL pipeline, the approval process for which she oversaw during her tenure as Secretary of State, Clinton chose instead to venture ever so slightly into the debate over the pros and cons of the natural gas boom. In addressing the risks of natural gas extraction, she was perhaps trying to draw a distinction between herself and President Obama, who has continually touted natural gas as an important element of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.

“I know many of us have serious concerns with the risks associated with the rapidly expanding production of natural gas,” Clinton said. “Methane leaks in the production and transportation of natural gas pose a particularly troubling threat so it is crucial we put in place smart regulations and enforce them, including deciding not to drill when the risks to local communities, landscapes and ecosystems are just too high.”

Avoiding the actual word ‘fracking’, she said that the impacts of shale extraction could be minimized and that natural gas could be used as a transitional fuel as green technologies evolve.

“If we are smart about this and put in place the right safeguards natural gas can play an important bridge role in the transition to a cleaner energy economy,” Clinton added.

In previous speeches, Clinton has avoided the term fracking, called natural gas a bridge fuel, and not taken a stance on Keystone XL. However, by expressing concern over natural gas on Monday night, she may be trying to appeal to voters with an environmental mindset. She did not go as far as to mention coal or Arctic drilling but chose rather to focus on holistic talking points.

“Our economy still runs primarily on fossil fuels and trying to change that will take strong leadership,” she said. But “we do not have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.”

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said he wasn’t disappointed that Clinton didn’t mention Keystone. “She has already been asked about that. That is not her decision right now,” he said. “You heard her praise President Obama many, many times for his leadership on climate change and leaving a legacy. That is a decision left to him and the current secretary of state. That is where it should be.”