US Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Is Tone Deaf on Fracking

by Deon Daugherty, Senior Editor

For all of the attention heaped on the shenanigans of the Republican contest to name a presidential nominee, the Democrats have escaped from criticism relatively unscathed. At least on the issues. Certainly on oil and gas concerns.

Let’s give them a moment, shall we?

During the Democrats’ debate March 6 in Michigan, an eager University of Michigan student laid out her view of fracking as a perilous practice. Then she asked the candidates if they supported fracking. From there, the dialogue went something like this:

Hillary Clinton: I don’t support it when any locality or any state is against it. I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. I don’t support it unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using. So 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.

*Subdued recognition from the crowd.

Bernie Sanders: My answer is a lot shorter. No, I do not support fracking.

Anderson Cooper: A number of Democratic governors say it can be done safely and it’s helping their economy. Are they wrong?

Bernie Sanders: Yes.

*Wild applause from the crowd.

Former Secretary of State Clinton’s response probably didn’t surprise anyone. She’s been holding onto the coattails of the Obama Administration, which many in oil and gas believe is attempting to regulate the industry to death. But at the very least, she gave the appearance of thinking about the issue and considering its relevance to locals.

The senator from Vermont? Not so much.

It’s easy to give a pithy, crowd-pleasing response when you refuse to delve into the details. But similar to Sen. Sanders’ other grandiose plans – each lacking a crucial component of “Where’s the money?” –telling those governors in oil-producing states not to depend on fracking comes with a cost.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the cost could be around $846 billion – the total state tax collections during the heyday of the energy renaissance in 2013. Oil-and-gas producing states depend on that cash for things like public schools, criminal justice and health care.

Sanders’ has wooed mostly young, mostly white Americans with his pie-in-the-sky plans for free healthcare, free college and now, a world free of fracking. But his fracking position would make that wish list hard to fund because, kind-hearted as they probably are, those doctors and nurses, college professors and the utility companies that turn on the campuses’ lights, expect – probably, even need – to be paid.

On the few occasions he’s been pressed to provide details of how his ideas will be funded, Sanders is consistently brief. He will tax the wealthiest Americans. The problem with that logic – wherever you find yourself on the political spectrum – is that even the president of the United States cannot unilaterally raise taxes or otherwise alter the tax code. The Constitution’s checks-and-balances system precludes one politician from running amok. To that end, ask Obama what it’s like to try to order around a Republican Congress.

In the words of the possibly immortal Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”

Good luck getting a rich-people tax through Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate and Speaker Paul Ryan’s House.

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