Where Does Joe Biden Stand On Banning Fracking?

March 16, 2020
 Climate Democracy
Joe Biden surprised everyone by implying he supports a ban on fracking. While his campaign quickly walked it back, a ban is a necessary step in the fight to stop climate chaos.

Where does Joe Biden stand on banning fracking?

At the March 15 presidential debate, former vice president Joe Biden appeared to endorse a ban on fracking, which would have marked a dramatic shift in his policy and away from his record on the subject. 

The shift was short-lived. Just minutes after the conclusion of the debate, the campaign was telling reporters that he did not mean what he said.

Confusing? Here’s how it went down: During the one-on-one debate, Bernie Sanders said. “I’m talking about stopping fracking as soon as we possibly can.” Biden responded by saying, “So am I.” This appeared to surprise Sanders, who followed up by saying, “I’m not sure your proposal does that.” But Biden appeared to double down, declaring: “No more… no new fracking.”

After the debate, reporters were told by the campaign that Biden meant to refer only to drilling on public lands. 

From the very beginning of his campaign, Biden has faced tough criticism of his climate policies. to which he has often responded by saying that his record speaks for itself. What that record says, especially when it comes to fracking, is shocking. 

Joe Biden Was Selling Fracking as Vice President

The Obama administration was keen on ramping up fossil fuel production. One way it sought to do that was by wholeheartedly embracing fracking, touting gas drilling as a bridge to clean energy. This disastrous move delayed the shift to clean energy, setting back efforts to combat the climate crisis. But the administration was not just supporting new drilling at home; they also pushed other countries to embrace fracking, in part to undercut Russian gas exports. 

Vice President Biden was one of the most prominent public faces associated with that drive; in one high profile case, he went to Ukraine to underscore the need for the country to expand its shale drilling operations.

Biden’s Campaign: Personnel and Policy Linked To Fossil Fuels

One doesn’t need to rely on the Obama administration’s record to evaluate Biden’s climate platform. His campaign’s plan features weak timelines on renewable energy, vague pollution pricing schemes, and relies on non-existent technologies like carbon capture and new nuclear plants to achieve ‘net zero’ emissions. His overall vision has been scored by a variety of advocacy groups, and the results are clear (Sunrise Movement: 75 out of 200; Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund: C+). 

Campaigns aren’t just about voter interactions or policy proposals, though; a lot can be learned by the company a candidate keeps. One of the first major scandals to hit the Biden campaign came last September, when the former vice president attended a fundraiser co-hosted by Andrew Goldman, a co-founder of the fossil fuel company Western LNG. When pressed on how to reconcile this with the campaign’s decision to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, Biden downplayed Goldman’s role at the company, claiming he was not technically an ‘executive.’

Biden’s industry connections run deep. His campaign’s climate policy advisor is Heather Zichal, who was recently on the board of the natural gas company Cheniere Energy, while the campaign’s co-chair is Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, one of the fossil fuel industry’s most loyal Democrats in Congress. And prominent pro-Biden super PAC “Unite the Country” boasts several officials with ties to corporate interests and fossil fuel companies.

Biden Has Consistently Rejected Calls to Ban Fracking

The March 15 debate was not the first time that Biden has faced questions about a fracking ban. On several occasions on the campaign trail, he has told activists that he does not support banning fracking, or that it simply “cannot be done.” Disingenuous attempts to make it seem like Biden supports a ban led one of his supporters to pen a letter to the Wall Street Journal headlined, “Joe Biden Does Not Support a Fracking Ban.”

Many of us were surprised to hear Biden say he wanted to ban fracking. 

It was not surprising to hear his campaign explain that he didn’t actually mean it. 

If Joe Biden really does want to champion serious climate action, there are some things he should do: He could start by really supporting a ban on fracking, as well as fossil fuel exports, and new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. He should reject advisors and financial supporters who are aligned with the fossil fuel industry. And to underscore his commitment, he could join Bernie Sanders in signing our #UnfrackTheCabinet pledge, which would show that he considers climate action a serious priority.