Looming Biden Victory Puts Spotlight On Public Lands
Former Vice President Joe Biden appears poised to secure the needed Electoral College votes to win the White House, which will immediately put the spotlight on his agenda for next year, including energy issues and development on public lands.
Throughout the campaign Biden made clear that, if elected, he would implement a fracking ban on public lands – a major policy change that would have major implications for Western states.
Biden’s climate plan on his campaign website states the goal is “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters” and in the final debate with President Trump, he stated there would be “no fracking or oil on federal lands.”
Previously, Biden has declared there would be no fracking and no role for oil and natural gas and other fossil fuels in his administration on several occasions, but his campaign walked backed those statements. His running mate, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said during her own presidential run last year that there is “no question” she would ban fracking.
It is likely Biden will be pressured by left-leaning environmental activist groups to honor his pledge during the campaign to ban fracking on public lands if he’s going to count on their continued, but reluctant, support. Western Wire has previously reported that these groups are angling for influence in Biden’s administration and praised his comments that he would “transition from the oil industry.”
According to a study from the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association, a proposed fracking ban on public lands could deliver an economic and budgetary deathblow to the state. It would cut nearly 50 percent of oil and natural gas production and cost 62,000 jobs and $1 billion in economic activity.
At the height of the campaign, NMOGA Executive Director Ryan Flynn defended the industry’s improving practices and said a ban would be “devastating” for the state.
“We are committed to doing our part to reduce emissions and protect the environment, but we cannot slap millions of Americans with proposals that destroy jobs and ravage communities. Any serious energy proposal must recognize the fact that oil and gas will continue to play a major role in meeting our basic daily energy needs well into the future,” Flynn said.
A ban would also shave off $3 billion in tax revenue to the state’s general fund, or nearly 40% of the total budget. Education funding would be hit especially hard as a ban would take $1.4 billion in funding. Earlier this year, Western Wire reported the major contributions oil and natural gas production makes to the state’s education and infrastructure budgets.
Peggy Muller-Aragón, a top member of the Albuquerque Board of Education, said that funding from development on public lands is vital for students.
“This past fiscal year, oil and natural gas contributed approximately $3 billion dollars to our economy with a whopping one-third of that going to educate our future generation. How can anyone say fracking hurts our state when it helps provide funding for students’ education, which is priceless,” Muller-Aragón said. “I have always believed education is the great equalizer, and New Mexico students are entitled to such an equalizer.”
“Our state is lifted by the oil and natural gas industry, not diminished, and politics should play no part in denying our children access to the best education,” she continued.
The American Petroleum Institute also examined the impacts of a national fracking ban on public lands. Its analysis shows that foreign oil imports would increase by 2 million barrels a day as 12 percent of domestic natural gas production and 25 percent of oil production takes place on public lands.
Notably, this ban on production on public lands would have the opposite effect of what is intended. Cleaner-burning natural gas has played a major role in reducing in carbon dioxide emissions and a ban would result in the use of dirtier fuels that would drive up emissions by 5 percent.
If Biden does move forward with a ban on public lands, environmental activists and some Democrats in control of the U.S. House may press to go even further with a full national ban – a goal they have made clear throughout the campaign.
While that would require an act of Congress and would most likely face overwhelming bipartisan opposition because, as the Global Energy Institute at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has reported, it would eliminate 19 million jobs, reduce GDP by $7.1 trillion, and double the price of gasoline.
With a Republican-led Senate, Biden would also face pressure from activists like 350.org co-founder Jamie Henn to take sweeping executive actions that would undermine oil and natural gas production.
If Trump declared a national emergency because of a made-up crisis at the border, there’s nothing stopping @JoeBiden from declaring a National Climate Emergency in response to a truly existential threat.
— Jamie Henn (@jamieclimate) November 5, 2020