As President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden zeroed in on the key battleground of Pennsylvania on Monday, Biden sought to clarify his position on fracking while Trump doubled down on claims that the former vice president wants “to abolish the entire U.S. oil industry.”
Moments into his rally in Allentown, Trump said Biden “made perhaps the most shocking admission ever uttered in the history of presidential debates,” before claiming: “Joe Biden confirmed his plan to abolish the entire U.S. oil industry. That means no fracking, no jobs, no energy for Pennsylvania families.”
During their last debate, Trump repeatedly asked Biden if he would “close down the oil industry,” with Biden saying he “would transition from the oil industry, yes,” and that he would replace it with renewable energy “over time.” Trump seized upon Biden’s remark as “a big statement,” and made a direct appeal to voters in energy-producing states like Texas and Pennsylvania.
Facing claims that he intends to shut down America’s oil industry, Biden and his allies have since sought to clarify his position.
“I’m not shutting down oil fields, I’m not eliminating fracking. I’m investing in clean energy and I’m going to make sure that we don’t continue to subsidize the oil companies,” Biden told reporters on Monday during a campaign stop in Chester, Pennsylvania. He added that oil companies get “somewhere between $25 billion and $40 billion in subsidies. That money should go into making sure we do a lot of other good things.”
In interviews over the weekend in Pennsylvania, Biden further clarified his position on fracking, a process formally named hydraulic fracturing, which, along with horizontal drilling, has made the United States an oil and gas superpower over the past decade. Biden said he wants to stop issuing new drilling permits on federal lands, which federal agencies say accounts for around 10 percent of natural gas production and 7 percent of oil production.
“I’m not talking about eliminating fracking, I just said no more fracking on federal lands,” Biden told CBS Philadelphia.
In a separate interview with WBRE in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, Biden again said he would put a halt to new leases and development related to fracking on federal land and insisted that, with his policies, “the natural gas industry and oil is not going to be fundamentally changed. They’re already in transition. What I’m saying is that we will not continue to subsidize, give tax breaks to the oil companies which amount to $40 billion. They will not get that, and that money will be put into research and development to figure out how to carbon capture what’s coming off of gas and oil.”
Biden’s plan aims to reach net-zero greenhouse gases emissions by 2050. He argues that net-zero threshold can be achieved by helping eliminate emissions from natural gas infrastructure, while redirecting federal subsidies for oil and gas to cleaner energies.
“I do rule out banning fracking because … we need other industries to transition to get to ultimately a complete zero-emissions,” Biden said in Thursday night’s debate.
Biden’s remarks echo the damage control his campaign aides sought to make after last Thursday’s presidential debate, with Democrat aides releasing a statement saying Biden plans to phase out taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuel companies, not abolish the industry.
Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s leading lobbying group in Washington, told Fox News that Biden’s comments about federal fracking were disappointing.
“Banning federal leasing and development on federal lands and waters would derail decades of U.S. energy progress and return us to the days of relying on foreign energy sources hostile to American interests,” Sommers said.
“This is ultimately a choice between American-made energy and foreign energy, a choice between American jobs and foreign jobs,” he added. “It’s clear a federal leasing ban should be off the table—there’s far too much at stake for American workers, local economies, and our nation’s energy security.”