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Thoughts on Biden and Trump Debate: You Can’t “Transition Away” From Oil Without Killing Fracking

As an energy policy enthusiast, I was delighted that energy and environmental policy got some run during the last presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden. I’ve included a link to the video at the appropriate time at the end of this post.

Both candidates stumbled through their opening remarks. I felt like President Trump left a lot of yards on the field. He was trying to make some decent points, but they weren’t presented in a coherent fashion and you had to know what he was trying to say in order to “get it.” In fairness, Biden didn’t clearly articulate his points either, but things really heat up once Trump hit back at Biden’s energy plan, saying it will cost American families $6,500.

The portion of the debate on energy that received the most attention in the media was the section on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. The reason this is a hot-button issue is obvious: Mr. Biden is trying to win states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and New Mexico by promising to kill some of the highest-paying jobs in those states.

Mr. Biden emphatically stated that he would not ban hydraulic fracturing, but this statement is meaningless because the President simply does not have the power to ban fracking even if he wanted to. Fracking is primarily done on private land and is regulated by the states. What a Biden administration could do, however, is kill the industry by strangling it with red tape.

In March, I wrote a seven-part series on the impact a de facto Joe Biden fracking ban would have on energy prices and national security.

Killing America’s oil and gas industry using a “death by one thousand cuts” method was already well underway during the Obama administration. The Obama-Biden administration did this by enacting onerous rules on methane emissions (the primary component of natural gas) from oil and gas wells, even though emissions from oil and gas wells are low.

The Obama-Biden administration also needlessly delayed the construction of pipelines to drive up the cost of transporting oil and natural gas. For example, it costs about $5 per barrel to transport oil to market by pipeline, compared to $10 to $15 per barrel to transport oil to market via railcar. By delaying or killing pipeline projects, the Obama administration attempted to drive up the cost of doing business for American oil and gas producers, ultimately driving them out of business.

Other impediments to oil and gas drilling were needlessly long permitting times at the Department of the Interior, the illegal cancelation of oil and gas leases (sound familiar?), and regulations on power plants that hurt the coal industry to promote unreliable wind and solar were ultimately set up to harm the natural gas industry once the coal industry was finished off for good.

Biden can’t ban fracking, but he can do everything in his power to kill it using the federal bureaucracy. In the end, the result is the same. Tens of thousands of hardworking Americans would lose high-paying jobs in oil and gas sector and the United States would be more dependent upon energy imports from countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela.

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