On Saturday, activists will gather in Oakland for what they claim will be “the largest demonstration against fracking in U.S. history.” Whether the promised 10,000 people show up to “The March for Real Climate Leadership” or not, the promoters of the event have an erroneous view of what constitutes “real” climate leadership.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, wrote just the other day:

When it comes to climate change, what’s most important isn’t whether humans are causing the problem (as the real scientists keep insisting), but whether humans can be part of the solution.

Well put.  Humans certainly can be part of the solution and, as scientists have repeatedly confirmed, hydraulic fracturing is one such (human produced!) carbon-reduction solution.  That’s where things get awkward for our “ban fracking” friends.

According to a 2013 report from the Paris-based International Energy Agency:

The decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in the United States in recent years has been one of the bright spots in the global picture. One of the key reasons has been the increased availability of natural gas, linked to the shale gas revolution.

In other words, fracking, which is necessary for most natural gas production, is the reason the U.S. is a leader (in fact, the world leader) in carbon emission reductions. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. carbon emissions are at their lowest level since 1994 – thanks in large part to American shale development.


Even in California, where we primarily produce oil, we benefit the climate by producing more at home rather than importing oil from other, often hostile, countries. Californians use all the oil developed here and then some, so every barrel that we produce under our environmental protections is a barrel that we don’t have to import by tanker or by rail from places with more lax regulations. And, make no mistake: even as our energy mix shifts to include more renewables, Californians will need oil for the foreseeable future. More than 95 percent of our transportation is petroleum-based and the Energy Information Administration, part of the Department of Energy, estimates that by 2040, 70 percent of our electricity – and much more of our transportation fuel —  will still be fossil-fuel based.

California Governor Jerry Brown is one of the most prominent environmental advocates of the past 40 years, and, unlike Governor Cuomo in New York, he and most Democrats (and Republicans) in the legislature, as well as the scientists/regulators at the Department of Conservation, have exhibited “real” leadership by deliberately examining the extensive academic literature on hydraulic fracturing.  They understand that hydraulic fracturing has been used more than 1.2 million times over the past 65 years, without the adverse impacts claimed by activists.

When scientists and regulators (including the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of the Interior and the EPA Administrator) continually affirm that fracking is fundamentally safe and has manageable risks, it’s clear these stunts are all activists have to fall back on.

While a march can sometimes be a useful way to draw attention to a vital issue, it is a unfortunate that, in this case, marchers will be trying to scare the public about a routine and well-understood technology that helps lower – rather than increase — global carbon emissions.Fracking is something that any “march” genuinely interested in combating climate change would celebrate.