Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s recent statement declaring that he would not ban fracking if elected was met with silence from environmental groups opposing oil and natural gas.
This apparent lack of response suggests that these groups are unwilling to undermine Biden’s campaign, particularly as he made the statement in Pennsylvania, a state with a significant energy industry.
Biden’s attempt to affirm his support for fracking during a speech addressing nationwide racial justice protests in Pennsylvania highlights the delicate balance he seeks to strike between maintaining appeal in states with strong energy sectors and addressing concerns of environmental advocates within his party.
The silence from environmental groups in response to this statement may reflect a recognition of the broader political considerations at play during the election.
“With a clean energy strategy, there is a place for the energy workers right here in western Pennsylvania. I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again. I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me,” Biden said.
The primary focus of major environmental organizations such as The Sunrise Movement, 350.org, and the Sierra Club revolves around opposing fracking. Despite President Biden’s speech on the matter, none of these groups publicly expressed criticism.
Since securing the nomination earlier this year, environmental groups have adjusted their approach, refraining from publicly criticizing Biden to avoid inadvertently supporting President Donald Trump.
Instead, they have aimed to influence Biden’s campaign, urging a more assertive stance on energy and environmental issues.
A notable instance of this shift occurred when 145 environmental and progressive organizations wrote to the campaign, insisting on the exclusion of individuals linked to the fossil fuel industry from Biden’s transition team and administration.
This highlights the ongoing uneasy relationship between environmental groups and the Biden campaign. Initially hesitant to endorse Biden in the primary due to perceived inadequacies in his energy and climate plans, some groups supported other candidates like Sen.
Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. However, as the general election progressed, opportunities for reconciliation emerged.
The Sierra Club endorsed Biden despite its opposition to fracking, and the Sunrise Movement expressed willingness to support him if he embraced their environmental agenda, as reported by Western Wire earlier this year.
Biden’s release of a more ambitious climate plan in the summer was viewed by 350.org as evidence that they could hold him accountable, pledging to continue doing so.
Since announcing his candidacy last year, Biden’s stance on fracking has been inconsistent. In a recent development, his campaign took legal action against a pro-Trump SuperPAC, seeking to remove TV ads from the airwaves that falsely assert Biden’s opposition to fracking.
Before that, Biden said “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. … No more — no new fracking,’ in a primary debate in March.
Biden swiftly clarified that statement, specifying that he intended to “[ban] new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.”
However, such a prohibition on fracking in public lands could have significant repercussions for Western states, particularly New Mexico, which relied on $3 billion in tax revenue from oil and natural gas production the previous year to fund public services, education, and infrastructure.
During a campaign event last year, Biden expressed strong opposition to oil and natural gas.
When confronted by an activist about attending fundraisers with fossil fuel executives, Biden emphatically stated, “You don’t have to agree, but I want you to look in my eyes. I guarantee you; I guarantee you we’re going to end fossil fuel, and I am not going to cooperate with them. Before 2050, God willing.”
Vice President Mike Pence responded to Biden’s recent assertion on fracking by recalling his comments from the 2019 campaign event.