Lizzie Fletcher sure picked an odd time to endorse the most anti-oil presidential candidate in her party’s history.
NRCC Comment: “Lizzie Fletcher’s endorsement of Joe Biden is just more proof she’ll always put her party over her constituents. Joe Biden’s extreme anti-energy policies would further threaten the already reeling oil and gas industry and put millions out of work.” – NRCC Spokesman Bob Salera
Here’s a quick reminder of what Fletcher is standing behind by backing Joe Biden.
In case you missed it…
Biden’s Shifting Energy Position Has Oil And Gas Sector On Edge
March 21, 2020
Joe Biden is the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee after earning an all-but insurmountable delegate lead last week. With Biden well down the path to the 1,901 pledged delegates needed to clinch a majority, voters’ attention has shifted to the question of whether he can defeat Donald Trump in November.
While the growing public health crisis of the covid-19 virus and the looming recession undermine President Trump’s ability to campaign on a strong economic message, he remains a formidable candidate in a contest decided by the electoral college, where the kitchen-table concerns of voters in crucial Rust Belt states swung in his favor in 2016.
Despite his Scranton roots, Biden could have problems winning over voters in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado and New Mexico – electoral college battlegrounds – based on his shifting position on energy policy. Biden’s opponents in the crowded Democratic primary field successfully pushed Biden to the left on fossil fuels and the use of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
Ahead of primaries last week in Arizona, Illinois and Ohio, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has vowed to ban fracking, pressed Biden on his position on the practice during CNN’s March 15 debate. Biden responded that he too would impose a ban. “No more – no new fracking,” Biden said.
The practice of using water pressure to “frack” open tight shale rock formations to allow oil and natural gas to flow has brought considerable economic prosperity and jobs in states that could be decisive in the electoral college. Fracking, combined with horizontal drilling, is used in 95 percent of the oil and gas wells drilled in the United States, so a ban would have immediate economic consequences in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, which have 76 electoral votes combined.
Biden’s campaign quickly walked back his statement, telling reporters that he misspoke. The Washington Post took the unusual step of factchecking Biden’s comments but letting him off the hook without issuing any Pinocchios with the argument that mistakes were made on all sides.
It’s unclear, though, where Biden really stands on fracking and what his policies would be if elected. Voters are also correct to ask tough questions now, especially given the economic peril the country – and the world – currently finds itself.
The move to ban fracking emerged early on in the Democratic primary contest as a yardstick for candidates to differentiate themselves from the pack. But the consequences, including rising energy costs and falling GDP, would be dire for the industry and the country.
A federal prohibition on fracking would bring an immediate end to America’s newly found energy dominance and its economic and geopolitical benefits. Domestic energy prices would rise and much of the environmental gains brought about by the transition to more natural gas use in electricity generation would be lost. Natural gas is now the single largest source of generating capacity in the power sector.
Millions of jobs would also be eliminated in important electoral college states, including Texas, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
Whether Biden supports a ban on fracking or not, his platform already goes well beyond President Obama’s efforts, including a promise to ban all new oil and gas permitting on federal lands and waters. That alone could spook voters who have come to view the oil and gas boom as beneficial to their community.
Politicians, of course, take positions on the campaign trail all the time, especially in a contested primary, that they quickly discard once elected. But voters can only judge a candidate by what they say and, so far, Biden has been outspoken in his opposition to the country’s role as the world’s top producer of oil and gas.
The rest of Biden’s remarks during the CNN debate were equally aggressive toward the oil and gas sector. Biden called the need to address climate change a “war-like situation” that required the same kind of global response as the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to act dramatically, boldly if we’re going to save lives in this country and around the world. I look at climate change in exactly the same way,” Biden said of the covid-19 virus. He went on to suggest that Exxon Mobil executives should be “held criminally liable” for not doing more to respond to climate change.
Biden was once considered a moderate on energy, but he’s moved markedly to the left since his time as Barack Obama’s vice president. While the Obama administration pursued regulations that erected barriers to new oil and gas development, it also coincided with the rise of shale which saw domestic oil production surge by 77 percent. Congress also lifted the ban on oil exports during the same time period, giving U.S. producers access to new markets abroad.
Biden’s adoption of more aggressive anti-fossil positions has startled the industry – a sector already reeling from the double whammy of lost demand caused by the worldwide spread of the covid-19 virus and the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Oil prices have fallen precipitously in the past two weeks with the WTI benchmark hitting an 18-year low at $20.62 a barrel on March 18. That represents a roughly 60 percent drop for the year and is well below the breakeven price for most shale wells.
Despite the resiliency of many large U.S. oil and gas companies, hundreds of smaller independents and the oilfield service companies that work for them are in a tough spot.
Thousands of oil and gas workers are facing layoffs in the coming weeks. Those workers will need immediate federal and state support but, perhaps more importantly, they’ll also need hope that they’ll still have jobs once the covid-19 virus is under control and oil prices recover. Many may lose their jobs just to watch the companies they work for shut their doors forever.
At a time when all sectors of the economy are facing great uncertainty, words matter. Biden either means what he says or he doesn’t. If not, he should make his position clear before November because millions of Americans who work in the oil and gas sector are listening closely.