‘Joe Biden Will Not Ban Fracking’
Posted October 9, 2020
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris was unequivocal on fracking during the vice presidential debate – declaring the Democratic ticket, if elected, won’t ban hydraulic fracturing in natural gas and oil production.
“Joe Biden will not end fracking, he has been very clear about that,” Harris said. And then: “I will repeat, and the American people know that Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact. That is a fact.”
This was soon underscored on Harris’ Twitter handle:
.@JoeBiden will not ban fracking. That is a fact.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 8, 2020
The clear Biden-Harris pledge on fracking indicates they know that jobs, economic growth, national security and environmental progress are linked to domestic natural gas and oil – largely made possible by hydraulic fracturing (used for 95% of new U.S. wells today).
No exceptions, no qualifiers. Fracking can go ahead on private lands and areas under federal control. (Quick, somebody grab the smelling salts for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.)
Still, despite encouraging statements from Harris and Vice President Pence for the natural gas and oil industry, both campaigns have some work to ensure the country can count on reliable, affordable energy.
First, consider that there are other ways natural gas and oil could be restricted without a fracking ban. Regulatory red tape, executive orders, hamstringing legislation – all could negatively impact our industry’s ability to deliver the natural gas and oil Americans use every day – as could proposals to end new natural gas and oil leasing on federal lands and waters (see Biden’s website and the Democratic Party Platform). Frank Macchiarola, API senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs, in an interview with the Washington Examiner:
“It’s not enough to say you are against banning fracking when you on the other hand say you will restrict development of oil and gas on federal lands.”
Meanwhile, past anti-industry statements from Biden and Harris may suggest that a Biden administration could still restrict natural gas and oil development using the means above – or even do an about-face from their no-fracking ban position. Here’s what we mean:
Former Vice President Biden, during a July 2019 presidential debate, was asked by CNN’s Dana Bash whether there would be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration. Biden:
“No, we would, we would work it out. We would make sure it's eliminated.”
Biden, speaking to a voter in September 2019:
“I want you to just take a look … I want you to look at my eyes. I guarantee you we’re going to end fossil fuel.”
Biden, during a March 2020 debate, agreed with Sanders’ opposition to fracking. Biden:
“No more, no new fracking.”
As for Harris, she has AOC’s head spinning because last night’s fracking promise is directly at odds with what she said in January 2019:
OK, so that was then, and this is now. Biden-Harris is on the record opposing a fracking ban – again, because they recognize the importance of it to industry and to voters in battleground states, including Pennsylvania and New Mexico. Still, in politics promises often are written in pencil, not ink, right?
To be clear, the Trump administration has an energy blind spot, abruptly announcing there will be no offshore oil and natural gas development in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic going forward, into the year 2032 (see our post, here). As we say, both sides have some work to do to support an industry that powers the U.S. economy and everyday life.
Now, what was left unsaid during the debate? Quite a bit.
We’ve already mentioned the importance of fracking and how banning it would cripple the U.S. economy (a recent analysis projected a ban could kill millions of jobs, likely bring on a recession and hit consumers with higher costs). A ban on new federal leasing, which remains on Biden’s campaign website and in the Democratic Party Platform, similarly could risk U.S. security, jobs and the environment, according to another analysis.
A number of those jobs are associated with natural gas and oil that employ union and non-union tradespeople and are valued for their wages, duration and opportunity, according to studies by North America’s Building Trades Unions. NABTU President Sean McGarvey:
“The findings outlined in these reports demonstrate that today’s oil and natural gas jobs are better for energy construction workers across the country in both the short and long term. The research confirms what our members tell us: the career opportunities for renewables are nowhere near what they are in gas and oil, and domestic energy workers highly value the safety, reliable duration and compensation of oil and gas construction jobs.”
Finally, the contributions from the natural gas and oil industry are integral to state economies and to conservation and preservation. The country’s most important conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, is funded by offshore oil and natural gas development.
Just a few elements of the national conversation we should be having on energy.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.