In the last test Democratic presidential primary debate, former Vice President Joe Biden and Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders squared off in the first one-on-one debate of the primary giving, America a clear look at each candidate’s leadership qualities and policy positions. With the field narrowed, the smaller stage revealed that the Democratic party is even farther left than we ever thought.
Biden, the clear frontrunner to become the Democratic presidential nominee, has been labeled by some as a “moderate Democrat.” Many have attributed his more “mainstream” policies to the current lead he holds over the “more radical” Sanders, who identifies as a democratic socialist. In reality, when it comes to the oil and natural gas industry, unfortunately for the energy worker, there is no such thing as a moderate Democrat.
Last year, during a climate change town hall, Biden said he would not ban fracking. He still supported heavy restrictions on the industry, but he claimed not to be in favor of a ban that would put millions of Americans out of work and destroy an industry that contributes trillions of dollars to our economy. Sadly, for the political expediency of the moment, his stance on the issue has drastically changed.
Sunday night, on the stage of a nationally televised presidential primary debate, Biden stated that he supports “no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends.” Biden is obviously pandering to wrap up this primary race and move on to the general election. He knows that he needs the support of the “Bernie Bro’s,” and he’s clearly willing to say anything to get it. In this shameless process, he has taken a position on the side of Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her radical Green New Deal. Just one aspect of this radical policy proposal is an immediate fracking ban, which Biden unequivocally tied himself to. His definitive statement is likely to haunt him throughout the rest of the campaign trail, “period” — as it should.
Particularly in these uncertain times, America needs the natural gas and oil industry. This is an industry that supports 7.6% of the U.S. economy and over 10 million American jobs. Oil and natural gas also supplies nearly 65% of all the energy that enables our country’s economy, and is projected to generate an additional two million jobs by 2035. America’s recently-achieved energy independence is all-important now as well, as the shale oil revolution transformed us from the world’s biggest oil importer to a net exporter in the last six years alone.
America is no longer dependent on foreign oil production, and it has given us far more leverage on the international stage. Over the past few years, Russia has been funneling oil to regimes that oppose us and using its wealth of energy to undermine American interests. Now we produce enough energy to move allies off of Russia’s supply and onto ours. This independence has allowed us to strengthen key international relationships and have more agency at the trade table. Just in the past week, Saudi Arabia has started an oil war with Russia and, in the process, attempted to destroy U.S. shale oil as they did in 2014. It is the time to encourage and strengthen the U.S. oil and gas industry, not a time to do the bidding of Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The median of the Democratic party has drifted farther and farther left over the past few years, and many have feared that more radical policy proposals and rhetoric would become normalized. Biden’s support of a fracking ban and disdain for America’s energy independence does more than redefine his ideological standing. It speaks to the bizarre, almost unthinkably unpatriotic shift of the party as a whole.
The current coronavirus crisis has most of the nation, probably for the first time ever, locked-in our residences. Several people, however, are still out and about working. Their work is critical to our survival and incompatible with “self-isolating at home.” First and foremost, the medical professionals and first responders come to mind. But also grocery store clerks, truck drivers, and food delivery services. Undergirding all this labor is energy. It powers our factories, our farm equipment, our vehicles. It transports, refrigerates, heats, and cools, keeping our houses temperature controlled, our internet powering, our lights on. Energy workers are also hard at it on oil rigs, fracking sites and coal mines, and their very labor is sustaining the nation.
At a critical time like this we need to make it clear we cannot cede our energy industry to Russia, Saudi Arabia, or any foreign entity. This country deserves a president that encourages American energy, not one who’s willing to pander and jeopardize the well-being of the nation for the sake of votes.
Daniel Turner is the founder and executive director of Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @DanielTurnerPTF