Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s unexpectedly strong anti-fracking comments at Sunday’s presidential primary debate rattled industry supporters but failed to win over Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The Green New Deal sponsor tweeted that the Biden campaign’s $1.7 trillion climate-change initiative was “not enough,” adding that “[i]nadequate climate plans are a form of denialism over how bad this problem really is.”
At the same time, she gave a shout-out to Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has released a $16.3 trillion climate plan, saying that he “takes climate change seriously. Other policies do not.”
Mr. Biden prompted double-takes during the one-on-one CNN debate by declaring “no new fracking” after Mr. Sanders said that his primary opponent wanted to “continue fracking.”
“No more subsidies for the fossil fuel industry,” Mr. Biden said. “No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period. Ends.”
While Mr. Sanders has called for a ban on hydraulic fracturing, Mr. Biden has not, although he does support halting oil-and-gas production on federal lands. His campaign later indicated that his policy had not changed, but fossil-fuel advocates said voters should be skeptical.
JunkScience’s Steve Milloy, part of the Trump EPA transition team, said that a fracking ban would “cause economic, social and geopolitical chaos.”
“Although Biden’s campaign is trying to walk back his vow to ban fracking, voters should take the promised ban seriously,” Mr. Milloy said in a statement. “There is no question that the same radicals who destroyed the coal industry during the Obama Administration would target fracking for destruction under a Biden administration.”
Hydraulic fracturing, a 70-year-old oil-and-gas extraction process, is used in the production of nearly all U.S. natural gas, which has supplanted coal as the nation’s primary energy source for electricity generation.
Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, said that the United States has become the “number-one producer of oil and natural gas in the world,” and that ending fracking would “kill a major source of economic power and surrender geopolitical strength to Russia and Saudi Arabia.”
“I’m glad to hear Vice President Biden has walked back some of those extreme comments, but the fact that they were even said underscores a sentiment that is divorced from economic reality and a lack of understanding of what powers the country,” she said.
Mr. Biden has walked a fine line on fracking, seeking to reassure the Democratic Party’s staunch environmental wing without losing voters in swing states with robust fossil-fuel industries like New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Larry Behrens, Western states director of Power the Future, said that oil-and-gas revenue in New Mexico funds nearly 40% of state government and provides more than 100,000 jobs.
“Leaders in Santa Fe are always all too happy to spend revenue from the energy industry and now they need to stand up and condemn Biden’s plan to destroy it,” said Mr. Behrens.
While the U.S. leads the world in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, thanks in large part to the increased use of natural gas made possible by hydraulic fracturing, environmentalists argue that only renewable energy can produce the dramatic declines needed to avoid climate-change catastrophe.
“I’m talking about stopping fracking as soon as we possibly can,” said Mr. Sanders.
Not persuaded by Mr. Biden’s staunch tone was Josh Fox, director of the 2010 anti-fracking film “Gasland,” who tweeted that the candidate “has been pushing #fracking across the world since 2008.”
“One intense exchange with @BernieSanders and he reverses his position and says ‘no new fracking,’” said Mr. Fox. “That’s why you vote for Bernie.”
Meanwhile, the Heartland Institute’s James Taylor warned that Americans “should enjoy low gasoline prices while we briefly can.”
“By calling for a fracking ban during Sunday’s Democratic primary debate, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are calling for $4-per-gallon gasoline and even larger hikes in electricity prices,” he said.