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Joe Biden ascended to the position of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee last week after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suspended his campaign, shifting the focus to who he will pick as his vice presidential running mate and their positions on oil and natural gas development.

In the final primary debate last month, Biden stated unequivocally that he would choose a woman, which was immediately followed by a tweet from his campaign, significantly narrowing down the choice of candidates.

Biden has also promised to ban fracking on public lands, has expressed support for the framework of the Green New Deal, and as vowed to end all fossil fuel production by 2050, as well as jailing energy company executives.

In a March Democratic candidate debate, Biden said, “[n]umber one, no more subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, no more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore, no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one.”

He added, “No more — no new fracking.”

With speculation rising as Biden’s “pre-vetting” process continues apace as he shores up support from former rivals, including Sanders, and his former boss, President Barack Obama, the presumptive candidate had a shortlist of nearly a dozen women, but with few specifics available. According to his comments on The View in March and recent CBS News reporting, that list now contains between 5 and 8 solid contenders.

In an analysis by Western Wire, many of the leading potential female Democratic contenders have all staked out strong positions against fossil fuels, including prohibitions of development on public lands.

Oil and gas development, the environment, and climate change have been major themes of the Democratic primary as Western Wire has previously reported. Activists demanded that the Democratic National Committee hold a debate specifically focused on climate change, Tom Steyer and Jay Inslee entered the race with climate as their top priority, and groups like Greenpeace conducted scathing environmental reviews of their candidate’s policy positions.

But Biden is still viewed with skepticism by these same activists who view him as a moderate and member of the party establishment. The influential Sunrise Movement, for example, has promised to withhold support and money from his campaign without a full-throated endorsement of their aggressive climate policies.

Biden’s vice president pick possibly presents an opportunity to help bridge the divide between the establishment and liberal wings of the party opens.

Political reporters and pundits have put Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at the top of Biden’s shortlist, who the Sunrise Movement’s second preferred candidate for president. Like Biden, she wants to ban fracking on public lands, and her ill-fated presidential campaign supported major tenets of the Green New Deal, moving to 100% renewable energy, and pressured banks to stop financing fossil fuel projects.

In announcing her run early in 2019, Warren stressed that her top priority would include an executive order “that says no more drilling—a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands.”

Another former presidential contender, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), is also at the top of pundits’ list for possible vice president picks. She has worked with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on segments of the Green New Deal and favors quickly moving toward carbon-neutral power.

Harris announced a “Climate Equity Act” along with Ocasio-Cortez, and called for the reinstatement of the Social Cost of Carbon Taskforce, while targeting the oil and gas industry.

“Big Oil has known the detrimental impacts of burning fossil fuels for over 40 years. Since then, they have endeavored relentlessly to stop government action on climate change. Their decades-long campaign of denial, delay, and deception includes spending millions to push industry-funded studies meant to obfuscate the scientific consensus on climate change, and to halt policy progress to the detriment of human life. The fossil fuel industry must be held to account for knowingly damaging our environment and endangering public health,” Harris wrote.

The former California Attorney General has also bragged about suing ExxonMobil, a favorite campaign of “Exxon Knew” activists, but her record on prosecuting fossil fuel companies generated little progress.

A third presidential candidate who came up short against Biden in the primary is Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who has touted bringing back Obama-era policies, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and restoring the Clean Power Plan and more stringent fuel-economy standards. She also supports banning fossil fuel leases on public lands and achieving 100% net-zero emissions by 2050.

Klobuchar’s main goal was to reverse the Trump administration’s regulatory changes, echoing other candidates like Warren.

“To help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels, Senator Klobuchar will ban new fossil fuel permits on federal lands and waters. Senator Klobuchar will also undertake a comprehensive review and restore environmental protections repealed by the Trump Administration. The Trump Administration has revoked dozens of guidance documents and rules that protect people’s safety, health and the environment when it comes to our power plants, oil refineries, national parks and wildlife refuges, offshore drilling, pipelines, and oil and gas development. Senator Klobuchar will undertake a thorough review of all the repealed guidance and rules, and work to restore our environmental and safety protections,” her campaign wrote in September 2019.

If Biden seeks a pick outside of Congress and the field of former presidential contenders, he could turn to a pair of governors who have built national profiles since being elected in 2018.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has added her state to the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of governors seeking to uphold the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and called for the state to meet an interim 50 percent renewable energy goal by 2030, and 80 percent renewable energy goal by 2040. Members of her administration also attended an event hosted by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund last year where moving past the use of natural gas was the primary topic of discussion.

But a Lujan Grisham pick could face significant uphill opposition from anti-oil and gas activists, who would likely be frustrated by a governor who supports the oil and gas industry’s contributions to the state of New Mexico.

New Mexico’s budget is heavily dependent on the oil and gas sector to support government spending. The state brought in $3 billion in tax revenue from oil and gas development in

2019, which helps fund public safety, and infrastructure programs, Lujan Grisham has praised the industry’s fiscal contributions.

“I could spend well longer than 30 minutes telling you about the benefits of what’s going on in the state of New Mexico because of what’s going on in the oil and gas industry — opportunities that we haven’t seen, ever,” Lujan Grisham told a meeting of the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association last year.

The other option is Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer who has publicly tussled with President Trump over the Coronavirus pandemic response, earning praise from Democrats and catching Biden’s attention.

Whitmer’s most notable energy battle has been the state’s protracted negotiations over the replacement of an Enbridge pipeline, put of which runs under water in the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes. She has also joined the U.S. Climate Alliance and reorganized the environmental regulatory structure in the state, which has earned praised from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the green group is encouraging her to go further by moving the state away from fossil fuels.

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Nishan Dahal is a versatile writer and skilled editor with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. At Western Wire, Nishan leverages his expertise to craft compelling narratives and provide insightful analysis across a range of topics, from breaking news to entertainment updates. His commitment to journalistic excellence and accuracy makes him an invaluable member of the Western Wire team.

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