Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders gave vastly different answers on fracking at the CNN Democratic debate on Sunday, illustrating a key policy contrast between the two.
The candidates were asked by University of Michigan student Sarah Bellaire about whether they support fracking, the controversial process of injecting high-pressure water, sand, and chemicals underground to crack shale rock and let gas flow out more easily. Clinton, who answered first, said she does — but only under certain conditions.
“By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place,” she said, adding that some places with fracking are not sufficiently regulated. “We have to regulate everything that is currently underway, and we have to have a system in place that prevents further fracking unless conditions like the ones that I just mentions are met.”
When asked the same question, however, Sanders had a different response.
“My answer is a lot shorter. No. I do not support fracking,” he said to applause.
Sanders was then challenged by CNN debate moderator Anderson Cooper, who noted that many Democratic governors say that fracking can be done safely, and that it’s helping their economies. Cooper asked: “Are they wrong?”
“Yes,” he said, to more applause. Sanders also hit Clinton for her campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests.
Later, Clinton defended her answer, saying that she had a comprehensive plan to fight climate change and usher in a clean energy economy. However, she said, fossil fuels will be needed while the United States transitions to more renewable energy.
“What I am looking at is how we make the transition to where we are today to where we must be,” she said.
Climate change and the future of fossil fuels are key topics where Sanders and Clinton differ. Clinton’s plan to combat the human-caused phenomenon focuses on vast increases in solar energy and other renewable technologies, promising a half a billion solar panels by 2021, or the end of Clinton’s first term. It does not, however, mention phasing out fossil fuels altogether.
Sanders’ plan, however, calls for a complete end to fossil fuels. It also calls for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and an end to fossil fuel lobbying and tax breaks — both of which Clinton’s plan does not include.