Is Hillary Clinton Fracking Kidding?

March 11, 2016

Hillary Clinton was a big booster of hydraulic fracturing and other methods of natural gas drilling while working as secretary of state, a position at odds with her denunciation of the extraction methods at the Democratic debate on March 6.

"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," Clinton said at the CNN debate.

Clinton listed three conditions she would place on hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking: she would limit drill wells’ emissions of methane and other drilling byproducts, require drilling companies to disclose the ingredients in their drilling fluids, and give local and state authorities the option to force out drilling companies. Clinton also supports ending shale gas development on public lands.

While Clinton has talked tough on natural gas development on the campaign trail, she took a more pragmatic stance as secretary of state.

Mother Jones reported that "under [Clinton’s] leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe."

At the time, Clinton touted the economic benefits that natural gas development offered to developing countries. She noted that natural gas is the cleanest form of fossil fuel, emitting negligible amounts of sulfur, mercury, and particulate matter and half the carbon dioxide of coal. She said that natural gas development by U.S. allies would reduce dependence on unreliable suppliers like Russia, which has used its energy resources as leverage to achieve strategic ends.

"The United States will promote the use of shale gas," Clinton said in a 2010 speech unearthed by the Daily Caller. Now, I know that in some places is controversial. But natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel available for power generation today, and a number of countries in the Americas may have shale gas resources. If developed, shale gas could make an important contribution to our region’s energy supply, just as it does now for the United States."

Clinton also noted the possible environmental effects of fracking, but with none of the stridency evident at Sunday’s debate. During the 2010 speech, she said U.S. authorities would share "best practices" on fracking "to ensure it gets off on the right foot."

Transcripts from her time at the State Department reveal other instances where Clinton promoted natural gas development. They are excerpted below.

Beijing, China (05/25/2010)

HILLARY CLINTON: American experts and Chinese experts will work to develop China’s natural gas resources. Imagine what it would mean for China if China unleashed its own natural gas resources…

We signed an agreement that, for the first time, will allow American experts to work closely with Chinese colleagues to begin exploring China's vast natural gas potential. We believe that could well lead to new economic opportunities in both countries, and a lower carbon emission load for our planet.

Islamabad, Pakistan (07/19/2010)

CLINTON: We are working with Pakistan in identifying and furthering the development of your natural gas resources.

Lisbon, Portugal (09/19/2010)

CLINTON: We are working to secure new sources of natural gas for Europe by expanding cooperation with partners in the Middle East and the Caspian region, including Azerbaijan; a new supply route through Georgia, Turkey, and into Europe. The Southern Gas Corridor will help open the European market to more diverse energy sources and bolster European energy security. And we’re working with Ukraine as it tries to chart a path toward being a more reliable energy partner for Europe.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (06/12/2011)

CLINTON: Plants like this one, which runs on natural gas, can help us make the transition from coal-fired power to clean energy sources. This jet engine runs on natural gas. Tanzania happens to have natural gas. So this is another example of a good win-win strategy.

Syracuse, N.Y. (04/23/2012)

CLINTON: With this enormous growth in natural gas, the United States for the first time in many years is actually exporting energy.