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Video: Gov McAuliffe Gets In a Heated Argument with Anti Fracking Activist. Who Wins?


In our continuing series on Gov. McAuliffe’s flawed, false, flat-out-wrong comments at the recent “The Next Frontier of Climate Change” conference,” we now present an anti-fracking activist getting into a heated argument with Gov. McAuliffe – and ultimately getting escorted out of the room for not knowing when to stop talking and let the governor dig his own hole deeper. In brief, here’s what happened and why I say McAuliffe dug himself into a deep hole.

*The activist asked McAuliffe about Dominion Power’s gigantic, proposed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline, and how McAuliffe’s support for this monstrosity squares with what she asserted was McAuliffe “campaign[ing]  against fracking.” Actually, as far as I can determine, McAuliffe only stated outright opposition to fracking in the GW National Forest, not in general. Still, the anti-fracking activist is correct that the natural gas for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP will come mostly from “fracked” natural gas in West Virginia. In addition, it IS worth pointing out that the U.S. Forest Service just approved “a permit to survey part of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia for a proposed natural gas pipeline,” and that the ACP also would run “through the George Washington National Forest – as well as the Allegheny Mountains, Blue Ridge mountains and the Shenandoah Valley.”

*McAuliffe’s response was basically a bunch of nonsensical and/or distorted arguments. Argument #1: Virginia has a bunch of pipelines already, ergo there’s no reason to be concerned about this gigantic new pipeline. That’s like saying, since there already is bad stuff happening in the world, we shouldn’t be concerned about far worse stuff happening in the world. It’s just a ridiculous, non-argument “argument.” The fact is, this pipeline is seriously flawed in its underlying conception, economics, environmental impact, etc. Gov. McAuliffe should respond, on point, specifically on the merits – or in this case, lack thereof – of the ACP, not throw out red herrings and non sequiturs in an attempt to avoid doing so.

*McAuliffe started to argue – but was cut off by the protestor – that the ACP would spur economic development in Nelson County. Except for one problem: according to Dominion itself, the ACP would generate only 118 jobs TOTAL in the entire state of Virginia (which has 4 MILLION employed people, so 118 jobs would be…let’s just say miniscule, something like a few McDonalds’ worth), and a pathetically small “$37.8 million per year in economic activity in the Commonwealth” (that’s not-even-a-rounding-error, just one ten-thousandth of Virginia total economic output of more than $400 BILLION per year). Oh yeah, Dominion also claims that the ACP will generate “$233,000 in additional tax revenues for Virginia each year,” which again isn’t even a rounding error in Virginia’s tens-of-billions-of-dollars state budget. So much for this pipeline being a “game changer” in any way.

*McAuliffe then continued arguing with the protestor as she was escorted out of the room. When he resumed, he attempted a few more laughable non-arguments: 1) that the fracking for this pipeline won’t happen in Virginia, so we shouldn’t worry about it apparently (yeah, who cares about West Virginia anyway, right?!? ugh); 2) that he personally can’t stop fracking in America, ergo apparently we might as well allow construction of an enormous pipeline that will encourage MORE fracking in America (great “logic” there, huh?); 3) that this pipeline will provide “cheap natural energy (sic) costs,” which of course will only be the case in the unlikely eventuality that natural gas prices stay low for years/decades to come; 4) that this pipeline would encourage manufacturing in parts of Southside and Southwest Virginia, but there’s no evidence that this will really come to pass, nor is there any comparison to how natural gas compares to wind, solar, energy efficiency, etc. in terms of economic development potential; 5) that “it’s done cleanly, it’s done safe,” neither which is true – in fact, “fracking” is a dirty, dangerous process, and pipelines are also environmentally destructive and dangerous, unlike safe, non-polluting solar, wind and energy efficiency; 6) that he’s “always told Dominion [to] work with the local communities…to do this in a way that doesn’t impact their neighborhoods,” but there’s evidence to date that Dominion’s doing the exact opposite, trying to ram the pipeline through, over significant local opposition in places like Nelson County.

Bottom line: Gov. McAuliffe’s case for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is extremely weak, not supported by the facts, and the wrong direction for Virginia, which should be focusing ALL its efforts in the energy area on transitioning rapidly to a clean energy economy, not to doubling down on dirty, dangerous, climate-change-fueling oil, coal and natural gas.

  • I’m reading this book now.

    So we are left with a stark choice: allow climate disruption to change everything about our world, or change pretty much everything about our economy to avoid that fate. But we need to be very clear: because of our decades of collective denial, no gradual, incremental options are now available to us. Gentle tweaks to the status quo stopped being a climate option when we supersized the American Dream in the 1990s, and then proceeded to take it global. And it’s no longer just radicals who see the need for radical change. In 2012, 21 past winners of the prestigious Blue Planet Prize – a group that includes James Hansen, former director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway – authored a landmark report. It stated that, “in the face of an absolutely unprecedented emergency, society has no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilization. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us.”

    That’s tough for a lot of people in important positions to accept, since it challenges something that might be even more powerful than capitalism, and that is the fetish of centrism – of reasonableness, seriousness, splitting the difference, and generally not getting overly excited about anything. This is the habit of thought that truly rules our era, far more among the liberals who concern themselves with matters of climate policy than among conservatives, many of whom simply deny the existence of the crisis. Climate change presents a profound challenge to this cautious centrism because half measures won’t cut it: “all of the above energy” program, as US president Barack Obama describes his approach, has about as much chance of success as an all-of-the-above diet, and the firm deadlines imposed by science require that we get very worked up indeed.