By Hugh MacMillan
Heather Zichal is seemingly threatened by our success in forcing the Democratic Party to deal with the issue of fracking, and the short-sightedness of the party’s long embrace with the practice.
Zichal’s attitude to those pushing for stronger provisions on climate change, renewable energy, and a ban on fracking have all the hallmarks of the consummate insider worried the rabble will upset their sweet deal.
Her defensiveness makes sense. Beginning with her strong embrace of fracking as President Obama’s top aide on climate and energy issues, she has become a key figure in the fracking world, profiting handsomely as a result.
Soon after leaving the Obama Administration, Zichal joined the board of Cheniere Energy. Other members of Cheniere’s board included John Deutch — former head of the CIA under President Clinton — who was also on the board of Citigroup. Deutch had also chaired the Obama Administration’s Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, which was populated with oil and gas industry insiders.
Cheniere is a leading exporter of fracked gas around the world. Its board is led by bankers and commodity traders — from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, etc. — who see riches in increasing consumption of natural gas, and increased fracking in the U.S. to help support that consumption.
They expect to get paid back. They are banking on widespread fracking to maximize oil and gas production.
The oil and gas industry, and its financiers, are desperate for oil and natural gas prices to increase, and the Frackopoly sees exporting fracked gas as key to making that happen.
For Zichal, it’s been key to cashing in on her rolodex after years as a high-level public official. She received more than $400,000 worth of Cheniere stock her first year with the company, and has used her inside track to establish her own energy and climate policy consulting company —Zichal, Inc.
Dave McCurdy, chief executive officer of the American Gas Association, the Washington-based trade group of gas utilities and a former congressman from the gas heartland of Oklahoma, once commented that the industry could count on Zichal to make sure that the federal agencies would not push what they saw as “unnecessary” rules.
With her recent diatribe over the Democratic Party platform debate, McCurdy’s confidence in Zichal has never seemed better placed.