Fracking Questions Continue to Follow Biden
Posted October 20, 2020
Vice President Joe Biden’s “No Malarkey Express” keeps hitting a speed bump called fracking.
During his townhall event in Philadelphia last week, Biden repeated that if elected president he wouldn’t ban fracking. It’s not hard to see the importance of fracking in energy-rich Pennsylvania – where lots of eyebrows probably were raised by Biden’s past statements and those of running mate Sen. Kamala Harris that fracking would be halted by a Biden administration (see here, here and here).
So, they’re opposed to banning fracking, which is used to develop about 95% of new wells in this country and key to the U.S. becoming the world’s leading producer of natural gas and oil.
But that’s not the same thing as supporting fracking or U.S. natural gas and oil – made clear by Biden’s proposal to effectively ban new natural gas and oil development on federal lands and waters (see his website and the Democratic Party Platform). API’s Frank Macchiarola:
“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.”
Also this from a Bloomberg analysis:
During a town hall meeting Thursday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden again assured shale producers that he wouldn’t ban fracking if elected. Then, in virtually the same breath, he touted his $2 trillion clean-energy plan, which aims to edge natural gas out of the power mix within 15 years. … “Decarbonization isn’t a debate -- it’s a fossil-fuel death sentence,” said Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners. “It means a resource is going off the grid. That is the inevitable implication.”
The impacts of a Biden federal leasing ban could be severe. This analysis projects that nearly 1 million jobs could be lost by 2022, U.S. residential consumers could spend a cumulative $19 billion more on energy by 2030, and U.S. GDP could decline by a cumulative $700 billion by 2030.
We’re just getting started. More energy-related nuggets from the Biden townhall:
Look, Here’s The Deal
With an eye on Pennsylvania and other key producing states where fracking is important to economies, Biden also found himself stepping carefully around the Green New Deal proposed by some in Congress, which would significantly affect energy, jobs and the economy.
Biden seemed to embrace GND’s emissions goals but then said his own climate plan is better, after moderator George Stephanopoulos noted that Biden’s website calls the Green New Deal a “crucial framework” for addressing climate. Biden:
“My deal is a crucial framework, but not the New Green Deal. The New Green Deal calls for elimination of all non-renewable energy by 2030. You can't get there. You're going to need to be able to transition, George, to be able to transition to get to the place where we invest in new technologies that allow us to do things that get us to a place where we get to net-zero emission.”
Biden said methane emissions from fracking have to be managed well. No argument here, and our industry already is on it. Reducing methane emissions from natural gas and oil production – by companies whose business model is based on bringing natural gas to market – is behind initiatives such as The Environmental Partnership, a collaboration of 85 participating companies, including 36 of the top 40 U.S. natural gas producers.
Through shared learnings, information and technologies, participants are working together to continuously target emissions sources identified by EPA. In 2019, more than 87,000 sites were surveyed, and more than 116 million component inspections were conducted. The Partnership is building on efforts that have seen methane intensity of natural gas – emissions relative to production – decline in the country’s major producing basins.
The Future Depends on Natural Gas
Biden said the future rests on renewable energy, yet renewable energy rests on partnering with affordable, reliable natural gas. Just ask California (see here and here), where they’ve been implementing renewable/climate policies for years yet have struggled recently to keep the lights on.
Natural gas provides the reliable fuel source for power generation when intermittent fuels aren’t available – when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. The quick ramp-up ability of natural gas and other qualities are critically important to a healthy grid that consumers can count on.
Green Collar Jobs
During the townhall, Biden lauded his clean energy plan as a jobs producer:
“I think we're going to be able to move in a direction where, by the year 2035, we'll be able to have net zero emissions of carbon from the creation of energy, energy creation. So, we can move it by dealing with those and every time we talk about global warming or the environment, the president thinks of, you know, it's a joke, and I think it's jobs.”
Indeed, Biden’s website says his plans will result in 10 million clean energy jobs and that working men and women in U.S. labor unions will have a lot of them.
North America’s Building Trades Unions recently released studies showing how much union and non-union tradespeople value the attributes of jobs associated with the natural gas and oil industry – because of what they pay, how long they last and the opportunities they provide. Sean McGarvey, NABTU president:
“[T]oday’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.”
In an interview with the Washington Post, McGarvey was pretty direct on behalf of his members:
“We agree over the coming decades, we’re going to do more and more transition. But we can’t transition into careers where people take a 50% or 75% pay cut.”
Biden Gets It Right on CCUS
Let’s close by noting that Biden talked about the importance of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) for a lower-emissions future:
“We should be moving toward finding the new technologies that are going to be able to deal with carbon capture so all the millions of transition, we move from a net zero emission of carbon, that we're still going to be able to use, if we find the right technology, some gases, some gas to be able to, if we can carbon capture.”
We agree. As mentioned here and here, CCUS is critically important in a multi-pathway approach to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Dr. Aaron Padilla, API’s manager of climate and ESG policy:
“If we’re going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions down to the level that climate scientists [say that we need] to get them down to, then we’re going to need CCUS. It is a technology that will allow for us to capture and either use or safely store the CO2 or the greenhouse gases that are associated with use of those technologies and fuels essential to meeting our energy needs.”
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.