In a new Op-Ed for the WashingtonExaminer, Salena Zito argues that Joe Biden’s proposed fracking ban may hurt his chances in his native son Pennsylvania.
Joe Biden stepped on his claim of being the guy who has the blue-collar worker’s back Sunday night when he pledged that his energy policy will include “no new fracking.”
That promise won’t help him win back the blue-collar workers that fled Biden’s party in 2016 to either support President Trump or just stay home. That’s especially true in western Pennsylvania and in the former vice president’s hometown of Scranton, where the natural gas industry has revitalized and created economic opportunity in both regions after decades mired in collapse.
Jeff Brauer, a political science professor at Keystone State College, located just outside of Scranton, said: “In that debate, Biden seemed to go further left in abortion rights, free higher education, and most importantly in energy production, fracking. His declaration of ‘no new fracking’ was clearly an attempt to appease Sanders and even Elizabeth Warren supporters.”
After the debate, Biden’s campaign claimed he was just restating his former stance of a ban on new oil and gas drilling on federal lands. “However,” Brauer said, “his mixed messages aren’t going to play well in all-important Rust Belt states, such as Pennsylvania, where hundreds of thousands of jobs depend on the natural gas industry and polls indicate just a little over 40% of Pennsylvania swing voters think a ban on fracking is a good idea.” Brauer cited a recent Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll, which found 42% of Pennsylvanians oppose a ban on fracking.
The statewide poll also showed that half of respondents said the industry has been “a major boost” to Pennsylvania’s economy.
“Such a clear sound bite from Biden could come back to haunt him in the general election,” said Brauer, adding it was reminiscent of George H.W. Bush’s 1988 “read my lips” pledge, which came back to bite him in his unsuccessful 1992 reelection campaign.
Jeff Nobers, executive director of the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania, estimates there are 30,000 people in the region directly employed by the shale industry “and at least 75,000 more jobs downstream. There is no other way to say this other than this industry is [a] major economic driver in our state.”
Nobers said the Builders Guild covers the 33 counties of western Pennsylvania. “Between the trade unions and the contractors, you’re in the neighborhood of 60,000 people that are either members of unions or they work for contractors or in their offices and so forth,” he said of his organization.
In a state where Hillary Clinton lost by 40,000 votes, Joe Biden has little wiggle room to create uncertainty among workers, family members, and whole communities whose lives and livelihoods have prospered thanks to the fracking industry.
And everyone who works in and around fracking in this state knows that because the fracking process takes, on average, just a couple of days, when politicians say they oppose new fracking, it is no different than saying you oppose all fracking.
“Those kind of statements are concerning. To just say you’re going to stop a significant portion of the energy doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, nor does it sound economically feasible,” said Nobers.
He also does not understand why Biden would want to possibly alienate voters of all stripes. “Not just the Democratic Party but the Republican Party and independents,” said Nobers.
Read more here.