Fracking opponent compares oil and gas practices to slavery

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A former official with the Environmental Protection Agency compared the practices of the oil and gas industry to slavery during a debate at Colorado Christian University, eliciting a rebuke from another panelist.

Wes Wilson said Americans should ban fracking because “burning fossil fuels is an ethical problem” regardless of its contribution to the economy.

“You know, slavery had a lot of economic benefits, but it had an ethical problem,” he said.

Panelist Josh Penry of EIS Solutions, who argued against banning fracking, audibly muttered “outrageous” in reply.

The comments were first reported by Complete Colorado, which also posted video of the exchange.

This is the second time in less than a year that activists have invoked slavery when opposing energy projects. In May, 150 big-money Democratic donors sent a letter to President Obama, encouraging him to oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, saying that denying a permit would be similar to President Lincoln’s abolition of slavery.

“[Lincoln] made one of the most important decisions of his presidency and for our nation when he decided that he would fight for the 13th Amendment to end slavery even if it took every ounce of his political capital,” the pipeline opponents wrote. “Your decision on Keystone may not be so weighty, but we believe it holds a comparable urgency and importance, not strictly as a pipeline decision but as a presidential choice that will signal a fundamentally new direction for our nation.”

Wilson, who was interviewed in the critical documentary “Gasland,” claimed whistleblower status after criticizing a 2004 EPA study that concluded fracking posed “little or no threat” to water supplies. On Monday, he said America should move toward relying on nothing but renewable sources for its energy.

“If we switch to renewables, there will be far fewer asthma [sic],” he said. “There will be babies born fully healthy. No, I can’t guarantee that, but what we do know is that fossil fuels, by their release of toxic trespass upon us, is causing an adverse affect in our population.”

In his closing remarks, Penry, a former minority leader in the Colorado Senate, called such statements “arguments of fear.”

“[Now, we hear] a comparison of 110,000 people [employed by the oil and gas industry in Colorado] who are working every day, working pretty hard and making a good living for their families, as being akin to a slave,” he said on the video.

“In time, this argument will be won because their arguments are fear,” he said. “The slavery thing to me shows the lengths to which they’ll go. And that’s why in the end, the longer this debate goes, the more confident I am [that] five, 10, 15 years, this will be a non-debate.”

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