Political News

AP FACT CHECK: Trump distorts Biden's position on fracking

Posted July 31, 2020 1:13 p.m. EDT
Updated August 4, 2020 2:08 p.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump is routinely distorting Democratic rival Joe Biden's policy on fracking as he tries to transform it into a full-scale “disaster” for election battlegrounds.

Trump's latest iteration of his falsehood:

TRUMP: “Biden came out against fracking. Well, that means Texas is going to be one of the most unemployed states in our country. That means Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico are going to be a disaster. Ohio, Pennsylvania — disaster. No fracking.” — news conference Thursday.

THE FACTS: No, that’s not Biden’s position at all.

In a March 15 primary debate, Biden misstated his fracking policy and his campaign quickly corrected the record. Biden has otherwise been consistent on his middle-of-the-road position, going so far as to tell an anti-fracking activist that he “ought to vote for somebody else” if he wanted an immediate fracking ban.

Trump continually ignores the correction.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, opened up a yearslong oil and gas boom in parts of the Southwest, Northeast and High Plains when the technique went into widespread use under the Obama administration, although the coronavirus pandemic and a global petroleum glut have now driven down prices and demand.

Biden floundered in the March primary debate when Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke of his own proposal, saying he was intending to wind down fracking entirely. “So am I,” Biden replied. “No more — no new — fracking.”

Biden’s campaign contacted reporters to say he misspoke, and the candidate and his campaign have been consistent in public statements of Biden’s position since.

Biden supports banning only new oil and gas permits, fracking included, on federal land. But most U.S. production is on private land — the U.S. Bureau of Land Management says production on federal land accounted for less than 10% of oil and gas in 2018. So Biden's limited restriction does not spell “disaster” for entire states.

The Democratic candidate does call for closer oversight of oil and gas production to minimize dangerous pollutants from it, including climate-damaging methane. And his plan to slow climate change calls for big-spending proposals to encourage cleaner forms of energy, so that U.S. power plants by 2035 are emitting no carbon pollution from fossil fuels.

But banning fracking on state-regulated private lands could take action by Congress, and Biden has expressed doubts whether lawmakers would vote for that. “Because you can’t ban fracking right now; you’ve got to transition away from it,” he told the anti-fracking activist at the December event.

Some of the states with the most fracking — such as Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio — are battleground states in the presidential election. Trump has seized on fracking as a position to hit Biden on. But Trump is not doing it honestly.

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Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Matthew Brown contributed from Billings, Montana.

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EDITOR'S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.

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