During Wednesday night’s debate, Vice President Mike Pence kept saying that a Biden-Harris administration would “ban fracking.” Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) insisted that claim was not correct. In fact, Democratic presidential candidate Biden has consistently said that he would not ban fracking and other fossil fuel exploration and exploitation on private lands. His administration, however, would ban fracking on federally owned lands. Natural gas production from onshore federal lands currently constitutes less than 10 percent of production in the United States.
Pence also noted that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are down. That is true, but the chief reason that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are down is because cheap natural gas (produced from largely from fracking) has outcompeted coal. If President Donald Trump had kept his promise to revive “beautiful clean coal,” then U.S. carbon dioxide emissions would not be falling.
Debate moderator Susan Page asked Vice President Pence, “Do you believe, as the scientific community has concluded, that man-made climate change has made wildfires bigger, hotter, and more deadly and has made hurricanes wetter, slower and more damaging?” He responded, “With regard to climate change, the climate is changing. The issue is what is the cause and what do we do about it? President Trump has made it clear that we will continue to listen to the science.”
The science suggests that man-made climate change is indeed making wildfires in the western U.S. worse. As I recently reported, researchers find that climate change is contributing to the rising temperatures and lengthier droughts that are fueling the increasing extent of wildfires in California. In addition, evidence is accumulating that as a result of rising greenhouse gases hurricanes are slowing down and getting wetter as well.
Pence is right that the issue is what do we do about climate change, but he offered no answer to that question other than a vague reference to “innovation” and to a shift in power generation from coal to natural gas for which the Trump administration can claim little credit. Biden’s proposal to ban fracking on federal lands would, in fact, slow that shift. But it’s false to say he would ban fracking altogether.