Biden-Harris Team Fracking Policy Explained

Democratic duo vows to not end fracking

Photo by T. Pollmann – The Sentry
Biden-Harris fracking policy may help garner support from major fracking states like Pennsylvania.

During the vice-presidential debate on Oct. 7, incumbent Vice President Mike Pence accused Kamala Harris and Joe Biden of wanting to, “ban fracking,” which would, according to Pence, “cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs all across the heartland.” Senator Harris shook her head and seemed to chuckle at the apparent absurdity of the statement, once allowed to respond she said, “I think this is supposed to be a debate based on fact and truth, and the truth and the fact is very clear…. Joe Biden will not end fracking. He has been very clear about that.” Mike Pence shook his head and had his own little chuckle at the apparent absurdity of this statement. But Harris has been adamant on her and Biden’s position. She tweeted after the debate, “@JoeBiden will not ban fracking. That is a fact.”

The Democratic presidential and vice-presidential candidates campaign on reaching “net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050.” Their plan involves multi-trillion-dollar federal investments in the green industries, rather than a New Deal/Green New Deal approach involving building these industries through public works, and their administration will supposedly, “hold polluters accountable.” It is not clear whether fracking corporations are considered polluters, what accountability looks like, or if, when, or how fracking will be phased out of America’s energy infrastructure. 

Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of fracking fluid, a cocktail of various chemicals including arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, lead, and mercury, deep into the ground to extract natural gas. Natural gas emits half the carbon emissions that coal does for the same amount of energy, but this does not account for the emissions generated by the set-up and duration of fracking operations – obtaining the fuel, or for the methane released by fracking wells. Other environmental concerns also remain, such as earth tremors and polluted drinking water caused by fracking, as well as the general continued dependence on non-renewable energy. 

Left-leaning politicians, such as Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, criticized the pro-fracking position tweeting, “fracking is bad, actually.” Many Democrats and progressives question how the pro-fracking (or not anti-fracking) policy fits in with the Democrat’s wider environmental platform, and the necessity of the concession. 

In Colorado, fracking first started in the early 1970s, and has increased dramatically in the last 20 years under former Democratic governor John Hickenlooper, who is currently running for Senate against Cory Gardner. Hickenlooper’s environmental platform for his current senate campaign is almost a carbon copy of Kamala Harris and Joe Biden’s.  

Hickenlooper has received criticism for his shaky fracking record  – environmentalists nicknamed him ‘Frackenlooper,’ in the senate primary against more progressive Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff. He opposed tough regulations on fracking while governor and oversaw a state legislature that kept fracking-related measures off the ballot in 2014.  

In 2012, his administration joined a lawsuit filed by an oil and gas trade association against the city of Longmont, which had banned fracking through a citizen-chartered amendment with 60% support. Other cities attempting to ban or suspend fracking, such as Fort Collins, also faced lawsuit threats from Hickenlooper. A Colorado Supreme Court decision in 2014 ultimately ruled that pro-fracking state policy takes precedent over municipal regulation. 

According to Data for Progress, overall support for a fracking ban dropped from 46% to 39% since the vice-presidential debates, and Democratic support dropped from 65% to 49.

On election day, Biden and Harris won Colorado by a landslide, as Clinton did in 2016. Hickenlooper also won Colorado’s Senate seat, thus dethroning Republican incumbent Cory Gardner. 

This is a selection from the Nov. 04 issue. To view the full issue, visit:

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