Throughout this election, environmental issues have gotten short shrift. Through all three debates, climate change—one of the most pressing problems of our time—barely came up. There was one question about energy, but its significance was quickly overshadowed by the internet’s love for the mustached, red-sweatered guy who asked the question.
In spite of the lack of questions, it’s clear that the presidential candidates are worlds apart when it comes to their relationship with the environment. While Hillary Clinton is far from a hardcore environmentalist (she has supported fracking) she has pledged to carry on Obama’s climate legacy, including the Clean Power Plan and commitments to the global Paris Agreement. A few weeks ago she campaigned with Al Gore, the godfather of climate activism, in an effort to bolster her credentials.
Donald Trump on the other hand has said things like China manufactured climate change and that wind farms are eagle-killing eyesores. As president he plans to increase fossil fuel development of all sorts and wants to do everything he can to roll back Obama’s climate progress and stifle the EPA.
Neither candidate has been keen to address the Native American protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, which would transport nearly 500,000 barrels of fracked oil per day to Illinois on its way to Gulf of Mexico refineries. The #NoDAPL movement has garnered national attention, much like the Keystone XL fight did, for creating a formidable opponent to the fossil fuel companies invested in transporting more oil and gas through their ever-expanding pipeline network.
While Clinton and Trump remain mum regarding their feelings about the pipeline, hundreds of thousands of other people are making their voices heard. The crowd-sourced Dakota Access Pipeline fund recently surpassed $1 million. This huge sum is among several cash flows that have provided at least $3 million to help with legal costs and supplies, according to the Associated Press. A number of celebrities, including Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, and Shailene Woodley have also come out against it.
And then there's your Facebook friends, who are probably getting involved in the protest action too, even if just remotely.
Clinton hasn't been totally silent. Late last week her campaign quietly released a statement on the protests. Environmentalists were not satisfied by it and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben tweeted that it "says nothing. Literally."
Clinton's statement is reminiscent of her what her campaign chair, John Podesta, said when Grist’s Ben Adler asked him about it recently.
“I think she believes that stakeholders need to get together at this point,” Podesta said. “It’s important that all voices are heard.”
Then there's Trump—recent revelations show just how connected he is to the pipeline and the company behind it, Energy Transfer Partners.
As first reported by The Guardian, Trump’s financial disclosure forms show he has between $500,000 and $1 million invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with a further $500,000 to $1 million holding in Phillips 66, which will have a 25% stake in the Dakota Access project once completed.
Furthermore, Kelcy Warren, chairman and CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, donated over $100,000 combined to Trump and the Trump Victory Fund before construction on the pipeline stopped over the summer due to the protests. Warren has also given $66,800 to the Republican National Committee since Trump secured the nomination.
The connections don’t end there. Trump’s energy advisor Harold Hamm has made billions off fossil fuels and is major proponent of fracking.
According to Greenpeace, Trump also has investments in Conoco Phillips, Chevron, Shell, and Exxon. And I don’t think he’s supporting these companies for their renewable energy efforts—especially if those projects disturb the views on his golf courses.