While radical environmentalists jointly claim greenhouse gases and fossil fuels such as oil and coal are responsible for global warming and endangering the planet, there is strong disagreement among them about what energy sources are acceptable.
Environmental activists and groups are divided on natural gas and nuclear power, and even differ in their approach towards fossil fuel companies, according to The New York Times. Politically, the left is divided too, as evidenced by the recent, narrow decision not to include a ban on “fracking” in the Democratic platform.
The New York Times science writer John Schwartz reported in a July 11 article that in spite of the “green” movement’s growth, it suffers from “pronounced schisms” due to “conflicting opinions” over the best renewable energy solution.
Schwartz said some environmentalist groups favored natural gas to temporarily “bridge” the gap between coal plants and solar and wind power. However, other organizations oppose this plan, arguing that hydraulic fracturing (commonly called fracking), the method used to extract fossil fuels such as gas, can result in methane gas leaks.
For example, in 2009, the Sierra Club promoted natural gas as being more environmentally friendly than oil and coal. The same group promoted an anti-coal campaign, called “Beyond Coal.” But after news broke in 2012 that the organization had received $26 million from donors associated with a gas company, executive director Michael Brune announced in a blog that “the group no longer viewed natural gas as a ‘kinder, gentler’ energy source because of the environmental risks posed by hydraulic fracturing, a controversial gas-drilling process.”
Schwartz also noted that Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton clashed over proposed environmental solutions. During his campaign, Sanders advocated banning fracking completely, while Clinton supported the plan to use gas while transitioning to other energy sources.
“Those putting together the Democratic Party platform narrowly rejected the call for a ban,” he wrote.
The Times article indicated greens are also at odds with each other over nuclear power. Environmentalists supportive of nuclear power argue that nuclear plants are cleaner because they do not produce carbon dioxide, unlike fossil fuels. But dissenters, including Al Gore, reject nuclear as being too costly and potentially hazardous.
There’s even disagreement over how to pressure fossil fuel companies. Schwartz reported that some aggressively push alternative energy solutions by encouraging people to “attack their very existence, and to hurt their businesses and reputations.” Others seek to “engage with the companies, particularly through shareholder proxies, to push for action on climate change” in the hopes of influencing their environmental policies.
Schwartz did not point out that environmentalists have also fought over wind projects and solar, due to the threat to animals and birds.