On Monday, presumptive Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden reversed the promises he made to green groups during the 2020 primary and pinky-swore he wouldn’t put 1.7 million workers out of a job by banning hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, better known as fracking.
Jon Delano, the political editor at KDKA, the CBS News affiliate in Pittsburgh, Pa., interviewed Biden on Monday. He asked the former veep if he would shut down the industry that sustains roughly 200,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.
“No, I would not shut down this industry. I know our Republican friends are trying to say I said that. I said I would not do any new leases on federal lands. Ninety percent of the leases are not on federal land, to begin with. I would make sure … the water is not being contaminated. But I would not shut it down, no,” Biden replied.
The problem is, the presumptive nominee did indeed say that — publicly and rather emphatically.
During the second 2020 Democratic debate in July 2019, CNN’s Dana Bash asked the ex-veep, “Would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?”
“No. We would work it out,” Biden said, quickly and emphatically. “We would make sure it’s eliminated, and no more subsidies for either one of those, period.”
This past January, the former vice president repeated this pledge. A New Hampshire voter asked him, “What about stopping fracking?” He immediately said, “Yes.”
In February, Biden said, “We’re going to get rid of fossil fuels … we’re going to phase out fossil fuels … no more coal plants.”
He made these pledges more explicit in a debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on March 15.
“No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period. Ends,” the ex-veep said.
Let's just say you'll never hear Joe Biden say, "Drill, baby, drill!" pic.twitter.com/DyLrO9nrsg
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) March 16, 2020
In the same debate, he made a very clear and blunt statement, “No new fracking.”
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 16, 2020
Of course, shortly after that debate, a Biden campaign spokesman insisted that the former vice president wouldn’t ban fracking — he was only referring to his policy of banning new permits for oil and gas drilling on federal land and offshore. Uh-huh. That’s exactly what he said.
Now, roughly a month later, the same Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. who promised to eliminate fossil fuels and fracking, in particular, is claiming that the words coming out of his own mouth are “fake news,” Republican propaganda.
Perhaps Biden was lying in the debates, just to defeat his more radical Democratic opponents. Perhaps he has no intention of eliminating the oil and gas industry. Or perhaps he really does want to ban all forms of drilling everywhere — not just on federal land. In either case, it seems like Joe Biden is playing a game, promising the radical Democrats one thing and telling moderates he needs in November something else entirely.
But these issues aren’t just talking points to the 1.7 million Americans who owe their jobs to fracking. The shale revolution has enabled America to become energy independent — a net exporter of oil and gas. Natural gas is also far cleaner than coal, driving down U.S. emissions.
Climate activists suggest that nothing would be simpler than for America to rely on wind and solar for its energy demands, but wind and solar are nowhere near able to power the U.S. grid. Eliminating oil and gas wouldn’t just put 10.3 million people out of work — it would also bring the energy sector to a halt. Imagine an America where lighting, heat, air conditioning, refrigeration, even charging phones and laptops are scarce, rationed, unavailable. This is what “no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period” looks like.
Sure, Biden might have been saying things just to beat Bernie Sanders in the primary. But do you really want to take that chance?
Joe Biden tells Democrat activists that he will get rid of fossil fuels like oil and natural gas, and ban fracking.
But when he was asked by a local Pennsylvania TV station if that means workers will have their industry shut down, he says no.
Which Biden is telling the truth? pic.twitter.com/YQYvAvWooz
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) April 22, 2020
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.