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Trump’s Misleading Attacks on Biden Over Fracking


President Donald Trump and his allies continue to ignore Joe Biden’s written plan to only prohibit permits for new oil and gas drilling on federal land and waters. That plan would allow for extraction methods, such as fracking, to continue under existing permits and in nonfederal areas — where the vast majority of U.S. oil and natural gas is produced.

Instead, the president and pro-Trump groups supporting his reelection claim the Democratic presidential nominee will end or ban fracking based on confusing statements Biden made — but he and his campaign later clarified — during the primaries.

A TV ad the Trump campaign started running Oct. 27 in Pennsylvania features “Jen,” a “fracking technician,” saying, “If Joe Biden’s elected, he’ll end fracking. That would be the end of my job and thousands of others.” It’s almost identical to an ad, featuring the same woman, the Trump campaign released Oct. 1.

In addition, on Oct. 23, America First Action, a conservative super PAC backing Trump, began airing an ad in the state that makes the same claim. It features “Brian,” an “oil and gas worker,” saying, “Joe Biden says he wants to ban fracking. That would ruin us.” A graphic shown on screen also says, “Joe Biden would cost Pennsylvania,” the second largest natural gas producing state, “600,000 jobs.” 

We’ve already written about similarly misleading attacks on Biden from that group, including the estimate of 609,000 lost jobs by 2025. That figure comes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Energy Institute’s 2019 analysis of a nationwide ban on fracking, which isn’t what Biden has proposed. Combined, there were only about 47,000 direct petroleum and natural gas jobs in the state in 2019, according to the 2020 Pennsylvania Energy Employment Report.

Biden’s Plan

Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, his vice presidential running mate, have both repeatedly said that Biden won’t push to ban all fracking if he’s elected. The energy plan he has released, and that is available on his website, supports that claim.

Mainly, it states: “As president, Biden will lead the world to address the climate emergency and lead through the power of example, by ensuring the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050.” Net-zero emissions means the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the U.S. would be matched by the amount sequestered, or removed, from the atmosphere. 

The plan says Biden will provide incentives for the development and use of carbon capture technology, and work to hold polluters financially accountable. It also promises that Biden will demand a worldwide ban on fossil fuel subsidies, and help fossil fuel workers, such as coal miners and power plant operators, transition to clean energy jobs.

As for fracking, otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique used to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations, the plan mentions “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters” as part of “Biden’s Day One Unprecedented Executive Actions to Drive Historic Progress.” That, as we said, allows existing drilling permits to continue on federal lands and does nothing to stop drilling on private land.

Biden’s Other Statements

To support the claim that Biden will or wants to end fracking, Trump and others point to unclear comments Biden made primarily before he clinched the Democratic nomination for president.

During the final presidential debate, for example, Trump, Biden and the moderator, Kristen Welker of NBC News, had this exchange:

Trump, Oct. 22: We’re going to have the greatest economy in the world, but if you want to kill the economy, get rid of your oil industry. … And what about fracking?

Welker: Let me-

Trump: Now we have to ask him about fracking.

Welker: Let me allow the Vice President Biden to respond.

Biden: I never said I oppose fracking.

Trump: You said it on tape.

Biden: Show the tape, put it on your website.

Trump: I’ll put it on.

Biden: Put it on the website. The fact of the matter is he’s flat lying.

But Trump wasn’t lying; Biden had made statements about his climate policies that critics interpreted as voicing support for a fracking prohibition. Some of those remarks are included in a campaign video that Trump has shown at recent rallies in West Salem, Wisconsin; Circleville, Ohio; and Martinsburg and Lititz, Pennsylvania.

And some of the edited clips in that video leave out important context.

To start, in the section of the video titled “Biden Will Ban Fracking,” it shows CNN’s Dana Bash asking Biden at a July 2019 Democratic candidates debate, “Would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?” In the Trump video, Biden answers: “No, we would — we would work it out. We would make sure it’s eliminated.”

“Joe Biden is committed to achieving a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050,” his campaign said in a statement clarifying his remarks the night of that debate. “He supports eliminating subsidies for coal and gas and deploying carbon capture sequestration technology to create economic benefits for multiple industries and significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

Next, the video shows a clip of Biden telling an environmental activist in September 2019, “I guarantee you, we’re going to end fossil fuel,” which includes oil and gas.

Then, it transitions to a video of Biden from a March 15 debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “No more – no new fracking,” Biden says in the clip.

Not shown in Trump’s video is that Biden went on to say “no more drilling on federal lands,” which is closer to what his energy plan says. His campaign also said that night that he only meant no new permits for oil and gas drilling on federal land and offshore.

After that, the video shows Biden telling CNBC in May, “I’d gradually move away from fracking.”

But Biden was even more emphatic about not banning all fracking in that interview, in which he said: “The whole idea of whether or not we’re going to stop fracking, I would not stop fracking. I’d gradually move away from fracking. I would just not do more fracking on federal lands. I would gradually move us out of the position of relying on oil and gas, excuse me, and coal.” That part isn’t in the Trump campaign video.

Later in the video, Biden is heard saying at a February rally interrupted by protesters that the protesters “want to do the same thing that I want to do. They want to phase out fossil fuels and we’re going to phase out fossil fuels.”

And, finally, the video ends with the portion of the Oct. 22 debate where Trump pressed Biden on his plans for the oil industry. “Would you close down the oil industry?” Trump asked his Democratic challenger. Biden is then shown responding, “I would transition from the oil industry, yes.”

In the debate, but not shown in the video, Biden went on to explain what he meant. “Because it has to be replaced by renewable energy over time, over time, and I’d stop giving to the oil industry, I’d stop giving them federal subsidies,” he said.

When Trump later claimed Biden “is going to destroy the oil industry,” Biden responded by saying: “He takes everything out of context, but the point is, look, we have to move toward net zero emissions. The first place to do that by the year 2035 is in energy production, by 2050 totally.” Again, that is more in line with the proposal Biden has released.

The key takeaway: Biden undoubtedly wants the U.S. to be much less dependent on energy from fossil fuels, and is aiming for net-zero emissions within the next 30 years. But his platform does not call for a full ban on either fossil fuels or fracking, which would take an act of Congress.

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