Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s position on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas has been muddled.
Biden wants the nation to achieve 100 percent net-zero emissions by 2050 and he opposes any new gas drilling permits on federal lands, but after that his statements on natural gas have been confusing and, at times, contradictory.
During a campaign stop in Pittsburgh earlier this week, he pushed back against ads by supporters of President Donald Trump that say Biden would eliminate fracking. “I am not banning fracking… no matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me,” Biden said.
However, during a July 31, 2019 debate when asked by moderator Dana Bash if “there will be any place for fossil fuels including coal and fracking in a Biden administration,” he said, “No. We would work it out. Make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, any fossil fuel.”
The campaign later clarified the statement to mean Biden was talking specifically about the elimination of subsidies.
Then during another debate earlier this year when Senator Bernie Sanders said he is against fracking, Biden chimed in, “So am I. No more… new fracking.” That prompted another clarification from the campaign to say he meant no new fracking on federal lands.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined after his stop in Pittsburgh, “Mr. Biden only has himself to blame for being vulnerable on the issue of fracking… He needs to speak out clearly and forcefully about fracking.”
Pennsylvania is a critical battleground state. Trump beat Hillary Clinton there in 2016 by just seven-tenths of one percent, just 44,292 out of nearly six million votes. Clinton did better in urban areas, but Trump prevailed in much of the rest of the state, especially where natural gas is produced.
The four top gas drilling counties in Pennsylvania are Greene, Washington, Susquehanna and Bradford. Trump carried those counties by an average of 38 points, 50,971 total votes. In other words, the well-drilling counties contributed significantly to Trump’s narrow margin of victory.
Polls indicate another close presidential race in Pennsylvania. A new Monmouth University poll of likely voters has Biden up 49 percent to 45 percent for Trump. However, one of the poll’s models reflecting a lower turnout has it as a one point race, 48 percent for Biden and 47 percent for Trump.
Fracking does not rank as a top national issue in this campaign. However, it is critically important in Pennsylvania, a razor close state with 20 electoral votes that are very much in play for this election.