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A day after the Obama administration granted final approval for Royal Dutch Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton fired off a tweet on Tuesday criticizing the decision.
"The Arctic is a unique treasure," she wrote. "Given what we know, it's not worth the risk of drilling."
Clinton, who served as Obama's secretary of state, also said she was "getting impatient" with the administration's delay on deciding the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Associated Press reported.
The Arctic is a unique treasure. Given what we know, it's not worth the risk of drilling. -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton)August 18, 2015
RL Miller, founder of Climate Hawks Vote, a political action group that works to elect politicians willing to confront climate change**, **said Clinton's critique highlighted her lack of clarity on environmental issues.
"What I'm waiting for is some rationale as to whether she's truly interested in keeping fossil fuels in the ground in a consistent fashion or whether she's just piecemealing the Arctic from a old-school environmentalist point of view," Miller told VICE News.
That old-school view, Miller said, is akin to a philosophy of protecting nature for its own sake, especially where it's picturesque — think of it as the national parks and polar bear approach.
"What I'm looking for," Miller continued, "is a sense that she understands the depths of the climate crisis, which requires that we keep 80 percent of our fossil fuels in the ground."
"I do think that climate change is very much a growing problem," Miller added, "and she is quite correctly realizing that the next president of the United States is going to need to do more."
The biggest thing that Clinton could do to help herself politically with the environmental movement, Miller said, is take a stand against the Keystone XL pipeline, rather than simply criticize the administration's foot dragging on it.
Clinton's reluctance to say what she thinks about the pipeline is hurting her, says David Turnbull, the campaigns director for Oil Change International, which opposes the project.
"Her reticence to actually take a position on Keystone XL is obviously a problem for her," Turnbull told VICE News. "The environment movement is very clearly opposed to the pipeline."
Speaking out against the Arctic drilling, Turnbull said, is a way for Clinton to come out against a big oil infrastructure project while at the same avoiding the more politically dicey Keystone issue.
Karthik Ganapathy of 350.org echoed Turnbull, saying greens are "wary" of Clinton and more likely to embrace the two other leading Democratic candidates, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders.
"[O'Malley's] climate plan reflects a real sense of timeliness and urgency," Ganapthy said.
"[Sanders has] been a climate hawk and a climate champion his whole career" he added. "We don't really doubt the veracity of his credentials on the issue."
Clinton, he said, comes across as too much of an incrementalist, and too similar to President Obama in that respect. "That's sort of our biggest beef with her, is we don't think she understands the urgency [of fighting climate change], or at least that urgency isn't reflected in her comments and policies so far."
In late July, Clinton announced a push for solar panel installations in the United States and a goal of bringing on line enough renewable energy generation to power every American home by 2027.
A spokesman for the O'Malley campaign said they had no comment on Clinton's recent comments, but pointed out that O'Malley opposes the Keystone XL project as well as Arctic drilling.
The Sanders campaign did not respond to a VICE News request for comment.
But, taking to Twitter, he wrote, "I have opposed Arctic oil drilling for years. Drilling the Arctic at a time when we face a serious climate emergency should be unthinkable."
I have opposed Arctic oil drilling for years. Drilling the Arctic at a time when we face a serious climate emergency should be unthinkable.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders)August 18, 2015
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Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger