The Latest Democratic Debate: Loose Talk Of Bans On Oil

In the Democratic presidential debate Sunday night, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders touched on energy policy – and reiterated their positions on fracking (against) and focus on climate change.

But Biden, the new frontrunner after the latest primaries, said something noteworthy:

Number one, no more subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, no more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore, no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one.

We don’t believe Biden is really calling for a complete ban on drilling for oil, but it does reflect a change in the way he thinks and talks about the American oil and gas industry (he has repeatedly sung the praises of natural gas, for example).

As we noted when Sanders proposed banning fracking and exporting oil, proposals to restrict or issue bans on the U.S. oil and gas industry jeopardize American economic and geopolitical security. Energy exports are major job drivers at home, bolster the global energy market, and protect national security, especially in light of unrest and unpredictability in the Middle East.

An outright ban on fracking would have a devastating economic effect on states like Pennsylvania, considering the shale industry supports 320,000 jobs and nearly $23 billion in wages in the state. Pennsylvania isn’t the only key swing state that would be negatively impacted by a fracking ban. Ohio and Michigan have a combined total of more than 400,000 workers in the industry, Colorado and Florida each have more than 200,000 workers in gas and oil.

Environmental: In addition to jobs, natural gas also provides affordable, accessible energy. As the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer after Texas, about half of Pennsylvania households use natural gas as their primary home heating fuel, and its 49 underground gas storage sites – the most for any state – are key for helping to meet heating demand in the winter.

From 2010 to 2018, Pennsylvania’s share of electricity generated from natural gas more than doubled to 36 percent, while the share from coal fell by more than half to 21 percent – lowering carbon emissions in the process.

Now is not the time to pander to narrow constituencies in exchange for threatening our energy independence, global security and countless jobs at home. Ideological opposition does not cancel out facts, and facts show we still need and benefit from the use of traditional fuels like natural gas and oil – especially at a time when the United States is becoming a net oil exporter for the first time in 75 years.