With the 2020 election less than three weeks away, the Biden campaign has been spending quite a bit of time in Pennsylvania. Biden recently broadcast his ABC town hall event from Philadelphia while Barrack Obama is scheduled to speak there later this week. The former VP has spent plenty of time marketing himself as a blue collar, pro union, champion of the people style old school Democrat that Pennsylvania tends to like. Having been born in Scranton, the Biden campaign has always had high hopes for the keystone state.
When it comes to winning over rust belt voters, Biden’s stances on fossil fuels and fracking could be a crucial factor. Pennsylvania in particular has a long history with fossil fuels. PA was once a coal production hot spot and has now become a leader in the natural gas industry. Hydraulic fracking has led to economic growth in the state, which is home to the largest natural gas field in the nation.
On a national level; increased utilization of the nation’s abundant natural gas reserves has led to a decline in dependence on foreign oil.
Many on the progressive left have called for a complete ban on fracking. Elizabeth Warren campaigned on the promise to “ban fracking everywhere” on her first day in office. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, NY) called to ban fracking in a February tweet. According to a 2019 study conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a fracking ban would cost Pennsylvania roughly 609,000 and $261 billion in GDP by 2025. The average Pennsylvania consumer would see their cost of living raised by an estimated $4,654.
Ocasio-Cortez has gone much further with her environmental policy, more or less calling for a total overhaul of the U.S. economy with the “green new deal.”
Under the green new deal, which did not receive one vote on the Senate floor, air travel would be phased out over a ten year period. The same would apply to the sale of gas-powered automobiles. The plan called for the building of high speed rail lines and called to “upgrade or replace every building in US for state-of-the-art energy efficiency.”
AOC’s green new deal would cost an estimated $93 trillion and would require immense federal control over the economy.
As for Joe Biden himself, he has never expressly called for a ban on fracking and has been reiterating this down the stretch. “First of all, I make it clear I do not propose banning fracking,” Biden said at the Philadelphia town hall in response to a question on renewable energy. George Stephanopoulos then pressed Biden on mixed signalling in regards to the issue, but allowed him to avoid giving an answer on an outright fracking ban.
On the campaign trail, Biden has called for the elimination of fossil fuels more than once. “We are going to phase out fossil fuels,” Biden said to supporters at a February event. When asked if there would be any place for fossil fuels, “including coal and fracking” in a Biden administration; Biden said no. “No, we would work it out. We would make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those,” the former VP said in August of 2019. “I want you to look in my eyes. I guarantee you, I guarantee, we are gonna end fossil fuel and I am not going to cooperate with them” he said to a New Hampshire supporter.
Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, called for an outright ban on fracking while she was running for president. “There’s no question I’m in favor of banning fracking” Harris said in September of 2019.
Much like Biden, Harris has since toned down the rhetoric in regards to the fossil fuel industry as the election nears. She stated that fracking would not be banned in a Biden administration during the VP debate, leading to a rebuke from AOC.
While Biden and Harris attempt to distance themselves from the progressive left during appearances and interviews, they remain intertwined with them. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has contributed to Biden’s climate change panel while Harris has praised the green new deal.
Given his own statements on the campaign trail and who he has surrounded himself with, Joe Biden’s statements in support of fracking are a tough sell. It is likely that the progressive left would wield significant control eventually, if not right away. It all depends on perception, but Biden’s murky messaging on fracking and fossil fuels in general could be a deal breaker in key PA regions.