Oscar-nominated filmmaker and climate activist Josh Fox slammed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton for her lucrative ties to the fossil fuel industry and praised Bernie Sanders’ plan to tackle climate change as the “only realistic one.”
In an interview with the Huffington Post published Monday, Fox, whose 2010 feature film Gasland was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary, asserted that “there’s no real scientific debate on climate change.”
“Bernie Sanders’ position is actually the only realistic one when we’re really facing the science on climate change,” said Fox. “We’ve already warmed the Earth by 1 degree since pre-industrial times. We have enough carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now to bring the Earth to 1.5 degrees. At 2 degrees, we bring about a process of 5-9 meters of sea level rise… If the science is telling us that we cannot go past 1.5 degrees or else our major cities go under water, then isn’t it the realistic position that we have to act as fast as possible not to go toward natural gas and fracked gas for the next several decades?”
“The candidates have very different positions on climate change,” said Fox. “Hillary has been a fossil fuel advocate for a very, very long time, and right now she’s actively hiding her ties to the fossil fuel industry and her track record rather than making a break with those policies and those connections.”
“Hillary’s State Department created something called the Global Shale Gas Initiative, a joint diplomatic and industry effort to promote fracking worldwide,” he added. “It was Hillary’s State Department that promoted fracking in 30 countries worldwide.”
“When you drill and frack and transport natural gas from fracking fields through pipelines to power plants, you get a huge leakage rate of methane into the atmosphere, and methane is 86 times more potent a warming agent in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide,” said Fox.
Holding up a bottle of murky water taken from near a Pennsylvania fracking site, Fox noted that the natural gas extraction process “causes water contamination, land scarring, [and a] health crisis everywhere it goes.”
“One of the most pernicious facts about fracking is that it entirely corrupts the government,” said Fox. “The fracking industry paid $747 million to get an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. That exemption is still in place today.”
“We expect that kind of duplicity from the Republicans, it’s part of their party platform,” added Fox. “But from a Democrat? If we’re going to acknowledge climate change as a real scientific problem, fracking won’t make it better, it will make it much, much worse.”
So what could a President Sanders actually do to combat climate change? For starters, he could change President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
“The Clean Power Plan currently shuts down old coal plants and replaces them with natural gas-fired power plants,” said Fox. “But if the Clean Power Plan was changed to also regulate methane in addition to carbon dioxide, that would facilitate the transition to renewable energy.”
Fox also said Sanders could push transportation alternatives like railways, and commit to “an overhaul of our railway system.”
“Sanders has already pledged to ban fracking on public lands, and [said] he would support fracking bans at the state level,” noted Fox, a move that would “encourage the kind of activism that banned fracking in New York state, Vermont, four towns in Colorado, a county in New Mexico, in all of France, in South Africa and in parts of Australia.”
Fox concludes that only a political revolution of the sort advocated by Sanders can effectively curb fracking and effectively combat climate change. Nothing will change, said Fox, “unless we start to participate in government and participate in our own fate. That’s what climate and fracking activism is about and that’s what I see in the political revolution of the Bernie Sanders campaign. It’s actually a really inspiring thing when you think about it, because there really isn’t anything else that’s a realistic way out.”
In a recently published Rolling Stone interview, Fox accused Clinton of “moral somersaults” and “gobbledygook” for trying to justify her fracking stance. Like President Obama, Clinton supports natural gas as a “bridge fuel” between the dirtiest fossil fuels like coal and oil and a clean energy future powered largely by renewables. However, recent research has found that natural gas extraction could actually do more to aggravate global warming than coal mining due to methane leaks like the recent Aliso Canyon blowout near Los Angeles, which vented more than 100,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere in the worst such accident in US history.
“Bernie is saying, ‘We have to go to 100 percent renewable energy, and we have to do it as fast as possible,’” Fox told Rolling Stone. “Bernie has correctly come out and identified thisas the number one security threat to the United States. And he invoked FDR, who overhauled the entire American economy to defeat fascism in Europe, and that is the correct mindset. We need that kind of FDR-like mobilization on renewable and on climate.”
“People see that Democratic incrementalism, plus Republican obstructionism, has failed to protect us. It has failed to protect us from climate change, from the big banks, from big corporations,” Fox added. “Bernie is offering solutions.”
While the Sanders campaign is not funded by the fossil fuel industry, Clinton’s campaign and associated super PACs have received more than $6.9 million from coal, oil and natural gas interests, according to Greenpeace.
“The truth is that Secretary Clinton has relied heavily on funds from lobbyists working for the oil, gas and coal industry,” noted Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs. “In fact, 57 oil, gas and coal industry lobbyists have directly contributed to Clinton’s campaign, with 43 of them contributing the maximum allowed for the primary… It’s no wonder that back in December Clinton refused to agree to stop accepting money from the fossil fuel industry when pressed at a town hall, saying, ‘I’m not going to do a litmus test on them.’”