David Frum

04.26.13

Democrats Disagree on Fracking, and It's Starting to Show

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While President Obama has been able to put off the issue of fracking for a number of years now, there are growing calls within the Democratic Party to increase production of natural gas via the fracking process.

Last month, Democrat and former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Daily News where he called for fellow Democrat and New York governor Andrew Cuomo to allow for fracking to continue.

Natural gas has an important role to play in the Northeast region and in our nation’s overall energy future. It’s already creating new opportunities for consumers and businesses and promoting economic growth in a range of sectors — all while reducing environmental impacts.

That’s why New York’s consideration of hydraulic fracturing is so essential. We’re at an energy crossroads as a nation. If we choose to embrace natural gas, it will help us get past a number of significant economic and environmental challenges. On the other hand, if we let fear carry the day, we will squander another key moment to move forward together.

Adding to the mix is Ernest Moniz, Obama’s nominee for secretary of energy.

As director of the MIT Energy Initiative, Moniz assembled an all-star cast of MIT physical and social scientists to produce a June 2011 report on “The Future of Natural Gas.” That report concluded that “for more stringent [long-run] CO2 emissions reductions, further de-carbonization of the energy sector will be required; but natural gas provides a cost-effective bridge to such a low-carbon future [italics in the original]” over the next few decades.

When Moniz’s nomination was announced he was promptly attacked by environmental groups, which raised suspicions about his relationship with ICF International, a consulting firm that has done work for the oil and gas industry. Left unsaid was that ICF also has done work for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)—and is in fact the go-to modeling firm for anyone wanting to do computer simulations of policy options involving the U.S. energy system.

Environmentalists are taking note of these shifts within the Democratic Party and have begun to push back. During a speech at the University of Denver Law School, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper was heckled by the audience for voicing his support for fracking and natural gas.