Elections, Energy, Environment, Politics

New York group on ‘kill’ mission against fossil fuels emerges as major player in anti-fracking campaign

Over the past several weeks, the cover story of anti-fracking activists in Colorado has become a total farce.

First, their proposal for bigger no-drill zones around buildings and other “areas of special concern” was exposed by state officials as an effective statewide ban. Then, their standard bearer – Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – admitted that anti-fracking activists don’t believe in “local control” and really want the federal government to impose a national ban on oil and natural gas development.

Now, the activists have confirmed once again they have no interest in regulating oil and natural gas development at any level of government – they only want to wipe it out.

This week, a new group was approved by the Colorado Secretary of State to gather signatures for statewide anti-fracking ballot measures – 350.org Action Fund. It’s the campaign arm of 350.org, an environmental activist group based in Brooklyn, N.Y.

icon_op_edBut 350.org isn’t just any old activist group.

This organization is behind the “keep it in the ground” campaign, a broad coalition of environmental activist groups seeking to ban the production of fossil fuels – oil, natural gas and coal. The group also works with left-wing California billionaire Tom Steyer on a related campaign – fossil fuel divestment – which lobbies universities, pension funds and others to dump any investments with a connection to oil, gas or coal. This means 350.org and its allies are opposed to roughly 81 percent of the energy that runs the American economy – not to mention the eight percent that comes from nuclear power plants.

Under their plan – if you can call it that – eliminating almost 90 percent of the nation’s energy sources will force people to use more expensive and less reliable alternatives, like wind, solar and cars that run on electric batteries. But in reality, cutting off the nation’s access to affordable and reliable energy would bring the economy and our way of life to a grinding halt.

“We can, and we must, and we will keep that coal and gas and oil underground,” 350.org founder Bill McKibben wrote earlier this year. In other words, he would impose a death sentence on Colorado’s energy sector, one of the state’s biggest employers and economic engines. But don’t take my word for it. Just read another column he wrote this year called “How to drive a stake through the heart of zombie fossil fuel.”

The column, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times, explains the project-by-project strategy used by 350.org and other groups to shut down the industry. “This business of driving stakes through the heart of one project after another is exhausting,” McKibben wrote. “So many petitions, so many demonstrations, so many meetings. But for now, there’s really no other way to kill a zombie.”

Sanders may have embraced this extreme agenda, but it makes other Democrats deeply nervous. “I think that to keep it in the ground is naïve, to say we could shift to 100 percent renewables is naïve,” says Sally Jewell, President Obama’s Interior Secretary and a former board member of a national environmental group. And then there’s organized labor. “[L]eaving oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels in the ground kills jobs, drives up energy costs, and threatens to strangle our economy,” Laborers International Union of North America president Terry O’Sullivan recently wrote. “‘Leave it in the Ground’ is not a viable energy policy; it’s political bullshit.”

McKibben recently headlined an anti-fracking rally in the Denver suburbs. But registering with the Secretary of State to gather signatures for anti-fracking ballot measures – joining Food & Water Watch, another national anti-fracking group – is a major development. It shows the Brooklyn-based group has a much stronger interest in Colorado politics than previously thought.

Perhaps McKibben and 350.org want those measures on the ballot because they know it will drive oil and gas development out of Colorado. Or maybe the signature drive is just an excuse to help other left-wing groups with their ground game and build their voter file. Perhaps it’s both.

But one thing is for sure. McKibben and 350.org aren’t coming to Colorado to impose tighter regulations on the energy industry or improve oil and gas development practices. They are coming here to kill the state’s energy industry, plain and simple. Voters should know that before they sign anything or lend their support to political candidates who stand with such extreme groups.

Simon Lomax is an associate energy policy analyst with the Independence Institute and a consultant who advises pro-business groups. From 2004 to 2012, he was a news reporter covering energy and environmental policy in Washington, D.C. Contact him at simon@i2i.org.


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