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Hillary Clinton says Arctic drilling 'not worth the risk'

Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that she opposes exploring for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, a move that puts her at sharp odds with President Obama.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton smiles as she listens to a question during a house party in Windham, N.H., July 16, 2015.

Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that she opposes exploring for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, a move that puts her at sharp odds with President Obama, who just this week gave Shell a green light to drill.

"The Arctic is a unique treasure," the Democratic presidential candidate wrote in a Twitter post. "Given what we know, it’s not worth the risk."

Related: Shell Oil faces long odds with Arctic drilling

The Arctic is the largest untapped oil reserve on Earth, geologists say, and Shell has spent more than 10 years and $7 billion in pursuit of that prize. With a newly modified permit from the Obama administration, the company plans to drop a drill bit more than a mile beneath the Chukchi seabed, a move that activists say will recklessly endanger wildlife and put the planet on a path to catastrophic climate change. 

GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush responded to Clinton's tweet within hours, calling her "wrong."

"Wrong. Being more-anti energy than Obama is extreme. We should embrace energy revolution to lower prices & create US jobs," Bush tweeted.

Clinton's opposition set off the electronic equivalent of hard-claps and two-finger whistles on social media, where Greenpeace and Moms Clean Air Force hailed the news. It comes little more than two weeks after Clinton pledged to “heed the warnings” of climate change, offering the first peg of a promised six-point policy meant to make America “the clean energy superpower the world needs.”

This marks the first time that Clinton has taken a stance on one of the acid-test issues that matter most to the green movement. But her commitment is still far from complete. she said she opposes Arctic drilling, but she did not explicitly tie her opposition to climate change. That leaves the door open to further support of offshore drilling elsewhere, as well as ongoing extraction on public lands. 

Clinton also remains silent on a wished-for national ban on hydraulic fracturing. And then there's the biggest purity test of all: the Keystone XL pipeline. As secretary of state Clinton said she was “inclined” to approve the pipeline from Canada to the Gulf coast, a position that would infuriate environmentalists.

Christie on Twitter responded to Hillary by asking about Keystone: "Still waiting to hear your position on Keystone... #AnswerTheQuestion," he tweeted

But she's yet to comment further as a presidential candidate. In fact, she has actively deflected the question when asked, claiming to do so out of respect for Obama's ongoing consideration of the matter. 

“Hillary Clinton is half the way there,” co-founder Bill McKibben said last month, summarizing Clinton's climate change policies. “Because at the end of the day, growth in renewables doesn’t mean enough if we’re simultaneously kicking the decarbonization can down the road with more pipelines and more extraction on public lands.”