- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 24, 2020

President Trump heads into the final week of the race with a stronger foothold in must-win Pennsylvania thanks to Joseph R. Biden’s mangled messages on energy and missteps on kitchen-table issues.

For many voters in the Rust Belt battleground state, there is no difference between the future of fracking and energy production and the prospects for their own livelihoods. Those voters see a threat in Mr. Biden, who vowed in the debate last week to achieve “zero emissions” and “transition from the oil industry.”

Since then, Mr. Trump has responded by hammering home the charge that Mr. Biden is a job-killer for Pennsylvania and the nation.

“In terms of business, that’s the biggest statement,” Mr. Trump said. “Because basically what he’s saying is he’s going to destroy the oil industry. Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania? Oklahoma? Ohio?”

Mr. Trump was already sounding the alarm at every rally about a war on energy if Mr. Biden wins.

“To all the people of Pennsylvania, hear this warning: If Biden’s elected, he will wipe out your energy industry. You will lose a million jobs. Just like he wiped out your steel industry and I brought it back,” he told a rally crowd in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Biden insists he would only ban fracking — the method of extracting oil and gas from shale that is widely used in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia — on federal lands.

But that’s little comfort for families that make a living off energy production, whether fracking or coal mining, when all fossil fuels are in the crosshairs.

Voters in western Pennsylvania have seen this show before.

“When it was the Obama administration, my husband was in the coal business and we lost the job, we lost everything. As soon as Trump was in we all had our jobs back and got back on our feet again,” Michele Courtney, 47, told The Washington Times at a recent Trump rally in Johnstown.

She was more energized to vote for Trump this time than in 2016, she said, because she suffered under the Obama-Biden energy agenda and its impact on the economy.

“I’m really concerned about it plummeting again if Trump doesn’t get in.”

With the help of voters like Ms. Courtney, Mr. Trump put Pennsylvania into the GOP column in 2016 for the first time in 28 years. It was the linchpin of his Rust Belt strategy that won over blue-collar Democrat voters and turned out masses of first-time voters to cast ballots for the charismatic billionaire.

Mr. Trump needs to keep Pennsylvania in his column this year to win, and the fracking and energy fight advances his cause.

The debate over energy policy often gets hung up on hydraulic fracking or fracking, which is the process of extracting oil and gas by injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rock formations.

For years, the left villainized fracking. But the Democratic Party leaders backed away from advocating a fracking ban, including beating back attempts by left-wingers to include it in the platform in 2016 and then keeping it off in 2020.

Mr. Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris, and his top campaign lieutenants spent the weekend trying to clean up after his debate performance.

“Let’s be really clear about this: Joe Biden is not going to ban fracking. He is going to deal with the oil subsidies,” Ms. Harris told reporters on the campaign trail in Atlanta.

“People are not going to lose jobs under a Biden administration,” Kate Bedingfield, a deputy manager of the Biden campaign, insisted Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“There is only one person in this country who Joe Biden thinks should lose his job, and that is Donald Trump,” she said. “Donald Trump is trying to distort Joe Biden’s position on this because he’s desperate to be running against anybody but Joe Biden. That’s been true from the start of this primary.”

The Biden energy plan, which is posted on his campaign website, would set a target of a 50% reduction in fossil fuel emissions by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

That transition away from fossil fuels would include ending fracking — with or without a ban.

“So many people’s livelihood depends on natural gas development. These are good-paying jobs and generate a lot of economic activity,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist in Pennsylvania who thinks the fracking and energy issue will hurt Mr. Biden.

“Biden has figured out finally that it is a big political loss for him to be opposed to fracking,” he said. “But more importantly, if you are going to go to a nonfossil fuel economy by 2035 you have to eliminate fracking and natural gas development. And that would be a horrible thing for Pennsylvania, for West Virginia, Ohio and throughout the Rust Belt.”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide