Sanders vs. Clinton on Climate Change

Mother Jones recently gave Hillary Clinton a mixed score-card on global warming.

While Clinton within the past 24 hours has finally— finally!— come out in opposition to the environmentally disastrous Keystone XL Pipeline (Bernie Sanders, her main rival for the Democratic nomination, has always been consistently against it), there are other areas of concern for environmental progressives.  From the article:

She promoted fracking abroad while secretary of state. Clinton encouraged developing countries to sign deals with American fossil fuel companies to extract their shale gas through fracking. This is consistent with Obama’s fondness for touting natural gas as a lower-carbon “bridge fuel” to help us move from coal to renewables. Mariah Blake of Mother Jones did a deep dive from last year that found, “Under her leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe—part of a broader push to fight climate change, boost global energy supply, and undercut the power of adversaries such as Russia that use their energy resources as a cudgel. But environmental groups fear that exporting fracking, which has been linked to drinking-water contamination and earthquakes at home, could wreak havoc in countries with scant environmental regulation. And according to interviews, diplomatic cables, and other documents obtained by Mother Jones, American officials—some with deep ties to industry—also helped US firms clinch potentially lucrative shale concessions overseas, raising troubling questions about whose interests the program actually serves.”

* * *

Her family’s charitable foundation takes lots of oil money. Big oil companies like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips have given millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation, as have Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich nations in the Middle East. Thursday brought the latest exposé on this issue from the International Business Times, which reports on donations from Pacific Rubiales, a Canadian oil company accused of human rights violations in Colombia. Pacific Rubiales’ founder, Frank Giustra, now sits on the Clinton Foundation’s board. IBT reports, “After millions of dollars were pledged by the oil company to the Clinton Foundation—supplemented by millions more from Giustra himself—Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial US-Colombia trade pact. Having opposed the deal as a bad one for labor rights back when she was a presidential candidate in 2008, she now promoted it, calling it ‘strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States.'” A cynic would say oil companies are buying influence with the Clintons without being subject to campaign finance laws. A Clinton defender would point out that the foundation gives away this money, it isn’t going into Hillary Clinton’s pocket or her campaign account.

* * *

She has supported offshore oil drilling. In 2006, Clinton sided with Republicans and against climate hawks like Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) by voting in favor of a bill opening new Gulf Coast areas to offshore oil drilling. Obama has opened up many areas for offshore oil drilling, and it’s possible Clinton would do the same.

* * *

What does the Bernie Sanders campaign have to say about climate change?

Here you go:

The United States must lead the world in tackling climate change, if we are to make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels, and towards energy efficiency and sustainability. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, and we need to greatly accelerate technological progress in wind and solar power generation.

Unless we take bold action to address climate change, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to look back on this period in history and ask a very simple question: Where were they? Why didn’t the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth, lead the international community in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and preventing the devastating damage that the scientific community told us would surely come?


  • Introduced the gold standard for climate change legislation with Sen. Barbara Boxer to tax carbon and methane emissions.
  • Led the opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Secured $3.2 billion in the economic stimulus package for grants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in a program that has funded upgrades for more than 86,000 buildings and installed more than 9,500 solar energy systems.

Not enough?  I say it’s not nearly enough, as the Sanders campaign underplays the good senator’s record on his own web site, which is unfortunate.  As it happens, Sanders was rated the senate’s best Senator on climate change.

However, the article goes on to say:

So we know Sanders is dedicated to climate action and clean energy. Looking forward, though, it’s unclear how Sanders will differentiate his climate and energy proposals from Clinton’s. Clinton, like President Obama, firmly supports regulating carbon emissions domestically and getting strong international agreements to reduce emissions globally. 

To this I say au contraire.  You don’t have to look very far to find someone spelling out what an environmental disaster the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be, which Hillary Clinton has in the past supported, however unclear her position remains currently.

What is clear, though, is the choice.  You can support a candidate who has flip-flopped on Keystone XL and on TPP, coming out in favor of either, or against, depending on what is politically expedient at the moment, or you can support the senate’s environmental top dog.

Seems like a pretty clear choice to me.

-Robert Gross

UPDATE: Just as I finished writing this, this article appeared revealing that Hillary Clinton’s biggest bundlers are from the fossil fuel industry.

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