The U.S. economy runs on energy, and it runs more powerfully when its fuel is affordable. Seldom has energy been more abundant than at present, and President Trump’s policies have helped the juice to flow. In challenging Mr. Trump’s presidency, Joe Biden is championing a fundamental transformation in energy policy. With the health of the economy the top issue of the upcoming 2020 presidential election, voters should examine whether his plan would dial the power down.
The Biden campaign has telegraphed a doomsday design for the future of fossil fuels. In 2019, Mr. Biden promised rally attendees, “I guarantee you we’re going to eliminate fossil fuel.” Reinforcing his vow, the Democrat drew up a position platform with the help of far-left Sen. Bernie Sanders that calls for the U.S. power industry, which generates more than 60 percent of its energy from natural gas and oil, to go carbon-neutral by 2035, and all new cars and trucks would battery-powered.
Conflicting statements about the future of fracking, an innovative natural-gas and oil well drilling technique, have also rutted the campaign trail. If elected, Mr. Biden pledges to end new permits for fracking on federal lands, leading to fears that a complete ban of the drilling practice would follow. Anxiety has roiled Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state where fracking has boosted economic prosperity with thousands of well-paid jobs and billions in new tax revenues.
Fearing voter backlash, Mr. Biden has visited the Keystone State 11 times, including recently, when he told voters, “I am not, not, not banning fracking, period.” Taken with past pronouncements, including running mate Kamala Harris’ stated opposition to fracking, Pennsylvanians can flip a coin over the impact of a Biden presidency on the future of natural gas and oil in their state.
To be sure, Pennsylvania is a minor player in the fossil fuel industry, with only 75 active federal leases in fiscal 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. States like New Mexico with more than 7,800 wells and Wyoming with nearly 13,000, have much more to lose if Mr. Biden wins. Fracked natural gas and oil wells lose nearly 90 percent of their production within 24 months, so halting new permits on public lands means a rapid decline in affordable fossil fuels.
To replace lost resources, Mr. Biden plans to install 500 million solar panels and construct 60,000 wind turbines. It’s an ambitious goal, but not nearly ambitious enough: Electrifying America with solar energy would require nearly 7.9 billion solar panels; generating the same wattage from wind power would take nearly 1.3 million of the towering pinwheels.
Renewable energy, excluding hydropower, currently supplies just under 13 percent of U.S. energy needs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Joe Biden’s plan to extract energy from the sky rather than the ground doesn’t add up to a healthy economy.