Hillary Clinton’s opponents in the Democratic primary pledged to not take donations from the fossil fuel industry. It’s an appropriate response to the fossil fuel industry’s tremendous influence in Washington, despite their presenting a catastrophic threat to the future of civilization.
When an Iowa voter asked Clinton to take the same pledge she dodged the question by saying, “I don’t know that I ever have. I’m not exactly one of their favorites.”
By the numbers, in fact, she is one of their favorites.
Oil and gas companies have contributed more than $700,000 to Clinton’s campaigns throughout her political career, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2008, she was the seventh-largest recipient of oil and gas campaign cash in the entire Congress. Meanwhile, oil giant ExxonMobil has given at least $1 million to the Clinton Foundation and $2 million to its event arm, called the Clinton Global Initiative, according to the Wall Street Journal. ExxonMobil has contributed $16.8 million to Vital Voices, a nonprofit that Clinton co-founded to empower women, the paper reported.
But that’s ancient history, right? Last July, Mother Jones reported:
Nearly all of the lobbyists bundling contributions for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign have at one time or another worked for the fossil fuel industry.
A list of 40 registered lobbyists that the Clinton camp disclosed to the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday revealed a number of Democratic Party lobbyists who have worked against regulations to curb climate change, advocated for offshore drilling, or sought government approval for natural gas exports.
The influence shows in her record. As Secretary of State, she promoted fracking, opened up offshore drilling in Mexico, and produced flawed environmental impact studies on Keystone XL pipeline. The Copenhagen climate talks during her time as Secretary of State are widely considered a failure, particularly in contrast to the agreements reached in Paris.
Clinton recently received an endorsement from the Laborers’ union which strongly lobbied for Keystone XL and other fossil fuel pipelines. A statement from the union says they look forward to working with her to “encourage a real all-of-the-above approach to energy development.”
“All of the above” energy policy is best understood as an attempt to keep all sides happy. It subsidizes renewable energy development, as Clinton’s climate plan focuses on by building new solar power. But also maintains (or increases) fossil fuel extraction.
Experts agree that we must keep most of our remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. A politically easy “all of the above” compromise is not adequate to confront the crisis.
Unfortunately, Clinton has little record of standing up to the fossil fuel extraction industry when it really matters. She only spoke out against Keystone XL and arctic drilling after it was clear the projects were going to be abandoned anyway.
Clinton is like the new face at a victory party, who shows up after others did the hard work and says she was with us all along.
Pledging to return and stop accepting new donations from the fossil fuel industry would help alleviate concerns about her mediocre record. For now, there’s little reason to believe she will stand up to the fossil fuel industry in a way she hasn’t before.