Jerry Brown Lashes Out Against Environmentalists Over Fracking

Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his State of the State address during a joint session of the California legislature at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011. (Steve Yeater/AP)
Recent photo of Gov. Jerry Brown, who yesterday spoke out on global warming. (Steve Yeater/AP)

Gov. Jerry Brown was on KQED Forum today discussing the recently signed regional pact with Oregon, Washington state, and British Columbia to fight global warming.

But as Paul Rogers, managing editor of KQED Science and an environmental reporter for the San Jose Mercury News wrote yesterday, rather than hailing Brown, environmentalists are focusing on an area in which they disagree with Brown. Just a day after the global warming pact was signed ...

... environmentalists lashed out at Brown for his full-throated support(of) fracking, the controversial practice in which oil and gas companies inject water, sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture underground rock formations and release huge amounts of fossil fuels. Those are the very substances that scientists say are causing more global warming.

"To see the governor support fracking at a climate change event is terribly ironic," said attorney Kassie Siegel with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. "Gov. Brown is a climate leader, but supporting fracking can undermine all that he has done." Full article

Forum host Michael Krasny asked Brown about the issue, and in characteristic fashion, the governor didn't mince words.

Transcript:

Krasny: Critics are saying, "Can you really have a meaningful climate change pact if you don’t address fracking?"

Brown: The premise of that assertion is that climate change is primarily about fracking. And that’s the most absurd idea I’ve ever heard.

This is like saying one tire in the 1 billion vehicles in the world is the problem. Fracking is a point, it’s an issue, but climate change is dealing with cars, with power plants, with cows, with agriculture, with cement, with land use, with many, many things....

The key point here that most people have in their minds is fracking the Monterey shale. Nobody’s doing that. At best it’s several years if it ever happens. And it can’t happen until a  major and the first serious scientific study to an environmental impact analysis that I required by a law I signed two months ago is done. I’m supervising that analysis and we’re going to find out.

Some of these fracking people, I talked to one young lady, I said,  "Give science a chance." [She said,] “No, I don’t’ need that, I studied it in college." She did not study fracking the Monterey shale in college, because it has not been studied in any serious way before. But it will, and there will be plenty of time to make comments, the state will have to respond to each of the hundreds of thousand of comments. This is a big deal, and the fact that people have just pretended not to see it as a big deal, shows you the utter emptiness of some of the political debate today. People don't know what the hell they’re talking about.

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For equal time, climate change luminary Al Gore spoke about the relationship of  global warming to fracking on Forum in February ...

I’m concerned about it. It has pluses and minuses. Advocates have long pointed out that natural gas has only 50 percent of the CO2 content when it's burned compared to coal. But a lot of it leaks in the fracking process. And when the methane leaks into the atmosphere, each molecule has 70 times the potential warming effect compared to CO2 over a 10-20 year period, and then it lessens somewhat. But that means not very much needs to leak to wipe out the advantage ...

People often say fracking is an issue that requires the classic question: is the glass half-full or half-empty?

Well, the Earth's atmosphere is completely full. And we’re going to have to make a shift to renewable energy sources. We have the ability to do that. The report came out recently that last year the largest new additions to electricity production in the U.S. came from wind -- 42 percent of all new energy production from wind. In Australia, wind energy, a report says, is now cheaper than electricity from a new coal plant or a new gas plant. And solar photovoltaic energy is spreading far more rapidly than anyone thought was possible. In 2010 the world’s cumulative investments in renewable energy for the first time exceeded the world's investments in fossil fuel energy.

Now the fracking wave over the last two years has put [non-renewables] out in front again, but it is inexorable that we will shift to renewable energy.

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