It often seems as if Democrats want to re-elect President Donald Trump. Why else would their top presidential candidates advocate a ban on fracking, the drilling technique that supports millions of jobs and accounts for half of all U.S. oil production?
Such a disastrous proposal will alienate the swing voters Democrats need next November. If candidates want a real shot at the White House, they would be wise to adopt former President Barack Obama’s pro-fracking approach.
Over the past decade, advances in fracking have made the U.S. the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. This is a historic accomplishment, and one that’s left our country less dependent on volatile foreign countries for our energy needs.
A fracking ban would undo this progress overnight. Such a policy would reduce U.S. crude oil production by 6 million barrels each day. Removing that much energy from the market would likely cause a global depression.
America’s economy would suffer the most. A fracking ban would eliminate nearly 3 million jobs and cost our economy more than $430 billion a year. It’s no wonder the head of the International Energy Agency recently said that cutting off oil and gas production is not advisable for “the U.S. government or another government in the world.”
But a fracking ban isn’t just economically disastrous. It’s also political suicide.
Any Democrat who wants to win the presidency in 2020 will have to carry Pennsylvania — a state that broke Republican in 2016 for the first time in nearly three decades.
Pennsylvanians have benefited greatly from the fracking revolution. The oil and gas industry contributes more than $44 billion to the state’s economy each year, and supports over 322,000 jobs. Crippling this vital industry is no way to win votes in the Keystone State.
Still, many Democratic candidates have made opposition to fracking a major part of their campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has promised to “ban fracking — everywhere” on her first day as president. Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have also pledged to ban the practice, as has former Vice President Joe Biden.
Even for Democrats, this position is extreme. After all, it was a Democratic president who oversaw the early years of the fracking boom.
Throughout his time in the White House, President Obama supported the domestic energy renaissance. As he boasted during his 2013 State of the Union address, “After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future … .We produce more natural gas than ever before — and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.”
Recently, many former Obama administration officials have opposed the push to end fossil fuel development. While testifying before the House of Representatives in July, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes made it clear that “It’s impractical and inappropriate to stop oil and gas drilling on our public lands and offshore waters right now.”
Former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, an Obama-era official, has even criticized proposed alternatives to fossil fuels. For instance, Sen. Sanders wants the U.S. to shift to 100% renewable energy sources by 2030. But Moniz has said it’s “not realistic” to expect such a shift, even by 2050.
That’s because the types of innovations needed to wean the world off fossil fuels don’t even exist yet. And until they do, low-income Americans rely on oil and gas for affordable energy. Already, almost a third of middle- and low-class Americans struggle to afford their home heating costs.
Any Democrat who wants to win the White House will need to follow President Obama’s lead and take a more moderate approach to fracking. If they don’t, they might as well congratulate President Donald Trump on his re-election now.
Zak Radzak is president of Teamsters General Local Union 346 in Duluth.