Heinrich's New Mexican Boondoggle

Earlier this summer Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), one of the most ardent environmentalists in national politics, wrote a typically brainless Op-Ed in the New York Times on electrification and the push for net-zero in the Democrats' multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill. Over at Capital Matters, Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation does us all a favor by thoroughly demolishing it.

Gessing opens with an important clarification --

Unfortunately, in Heinrich’s parlance, “electrification” does not mean bringing much-needed electricity to impoverished corners of our country, including the Navajo Reservation right here in New Mexico. No, the legislation he’s pushing in Congress — and the funding he’s advocating in the infrastructure bill, specifically — do nothing of the sort. By “electrification,” the senator means that he’d like federal, state, and local governments to phase out or completely ban your natural-gas stove, oven, and furnace, thus requiring you to use electric heat and stoves.

Which is partly to say that the bill itself is almost the antithesis of an infrastructure bill. Instead of putting government money towards what were once called "internal improvements" with the goal of raising the standard of living and improving economic conditions in neglected parts of the country, this bill ignores those forgotten places while seeking to lower standards of living and weigh down the economies across the board. This is what the Left calls "equity."

Gessing points out that, until a few years ago, environmentalist groups such as the Sierra Club actually supported natural gas, due to its cleanliness compared to coal. He mentions that Barack Obama even touted its potential for reducing atmospheric CO2. But now major American cities like Sacramento, Seattle, and New York have begun the process of banning natural gas in new construction.

The environmentalists had it right the first time. As regular Pipeline readers know, the United States has led the world in carbon emissions reduction since the year 2000.  Senator Heinrich and his allies, meanwhile, imagine that it can be entirely replaced with electricity generated by so-called renewable resources. That would be quite the trick, considering the fact that only about "10 percent of current electricity production comes from wind, solar, and geothermal combined" while this proposed transition "would increase U.S. electricity consumption by 40 percent." No surprise that Germany's attempted wind and solar transition has resulted in an increased reliance on coal, not to mention skyrocketing energy rates.

It's worth noting that the politicians pushing these policies are often working against the interests and preferences of the citizenry. The majority of people even in liberal cities want natural gas because it is "clean, affordable, and reliable energy," in Gessing's phrase. And Heinrich's home state of New Mexico is a major natural gas producer -- his own constituents would suffer if his preferred policies were fully enacted! In saner times, the residents of these communities would simply vote the bums out, but nowadays extreme partisanship protects activists masquerading as representatives.

It's quite the boondoggle. Just like Senator Heinrich's electrification proposals.

PennEast Pipeline Beats New Jersey at SCOTUS

Legal eagles might find today's Supreme Court decision, in PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey, compelling, contending as it does with a tension between the exercise of eminent domain on the one hand and a state's sovereign immunity as guaranteed by the 11th amendment on the other. For a layman like myself, one smart enough not to have attended law school, the discussion makes my eyes glaze over. However, the case might have some important ramifications in the ongoing dispute between the environmentalist movement and the oil and gas industry in the months and years ahead, and we would do well to be aware of it.

PennEast Pipeline Company LLC, a joint venture of energy producers including Enbridge Inc., South Jersey Industries Inc, and New Jersey Resources Corp, has been constructing a 116-mile pipeline that would transport as much as one billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale and serve customers in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

After having secured the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval, the company began acquiring the land along the pipeline's planned route, making use, where necessary, of a provision in the U.S. Natural Gas Act which allow resource companies to utilize federal eminent domain authority. However, some of that land belonged to the state, and the administration of Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, refused to hand it over, contending that only privately owned land can be acquired in this way.

When PennEast took the state to court, the Murphy administration argued that the 11th amendment-guaranteed sovereign immunity protected it from being sued by a private entity. The majority, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts (joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Alito, and Kavanaugh), disagreed, accepting PennEast's defense that their use of eminent domain flowed directly from the federal government.

Roberts argued that the right of the federal government to use eminent domain for the construction of essential infrastructure was well established, that there was nothing stopping it from delegating that power to a private company, and that "[a]lthough nonconsenting States are generally immune from suit, they surrendered their immunity from the exercise of the federal eminent domain power when they ratified the Constitution."

This doesn't mean that the pipeline will definitely be completed. As Greg Stohr points out in Bloomberg, PennEast "still must secure state-level permits, something that may prove difficult in [liberal] New Jersey." But this case is still has the potential to be significant, limiting as it does the ability of left-wing activists to kill major infrastructure projects they couldn't stop at the federal level simply by pumping money into local politics.

Will this precedent affect, for instance, Enbridge's other big pipeline project, which has seen Michigan holding all of eastern Canada hostage just to make a point? It's a hopeful sign.

The Fake News of 'Beyond Coal'

When one happens to be a scientist with an expertise in environmental issues like yours truly, one has the opportunity to digest a disturbing number of misleading, eye-rolling headlines in the mainstream media as heavily-biased journalists vainly attempt to present accurate information about environmental issues.

Even by that ridiculously low bar, the headline that appeared in the May 5 edition of the Chicago Tribune rates as the most misleading, unscientific and mindlessly hysterical that I have ever seen. A major metropolitan newspaper in the United States actually printed the following:

Burning natural gas is now more dangerous than coal.

Pollution from natural gas is now responsible for more deaths and greater health costs than coal in Illinois, according to a new study highlighting another hazard of burning fossil fuels that are scrambling the planet's climate.

Researchers at Harvard University found that a shift away from coal during the past decade saved thousands of lives and dramatically reduced  from breathing particulate matter, commonly known as soot. But the numbers declined only slightly for gas, another fossil fuel that by 2017 accounted for the greatest  risks.

About half the deaths from soot exposure that year can be attributed to the state's reliance on gas to heat homes and businesses, the study found. Coal is more deadly only when used to generate electricity.

The alarming findings raise questions about whether Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposed transition to a zero-carbon economy would move fast enough in phasing out the use of gas—not only to blunt the impacts of climate change but also to ensure Illinoisans breathe clean air.

The term “fake news” hardly covers it. This is “farcical news,” “fanciful news,” “delusional news,” etc. Yeah, journalists are not scientists. I get it. But, how sad it is to consider there is not one editor at the Trib who might have enough passing knowledge to think something like “that really doesn’t sound right, maybe we should take a second look.”

The essence of the Trib’s story, written by staff enviro-propagandist Michael Hawthorne, may be summarized thus:

Hawthorne does not actually use the accepted environmental terms “fine particulate” and “PM-2.5” in his story. Instead, he calls fine particulate “soot.” Certainly, that’s a much more appealing term to someone attempting to create a narrative, but it has little to do with reality. When you call in a chimney sweep to remove actual soot from your fireplace, almost none of the black gunk he or she will brush off is anything close to 2.5 microns in aerodynamic diameter.

Anyway, the problem with this particular narrative is the same one that always occurs when people with an agenda attempt to dragoon science into supporting their political agenda: they use that portion of the science that helps them and ignore (willingly or ignorantly) any of the science that disproves their premise.

I can accept that the amount of PM-2.5 generated though the combustion of natural gas now exceeds the amount of PM-2.5 generated by through the combustion of coal. At least theoretically. The amount of PM-2.5 generated by the combustion of natural gas is relatively so tiny that it is very, very difficult to accurately measure using accepted EPA test methods. In the enviro-biz, one errs on the side of caution, meaning that PM-2.5 emission rates attributed to natural gas are likely inflated.

Doesn’t really matter though, since the amount of PM-2.5 emissions that can be tied to electrical generation of any kind is trivial. Based on the last verified National Emissions Inventory (NEI) of 2017, the total amount of PM-2.5 emissions generated across America was 5,706,842 tons/year. Of that, EPA attributed 107,270 tons/year of fine-particulate emissions to fossil fuel combustion used to generate electricity. That’s less than 2 percent of all national PM-2.5 emissions.

Wondering about the biggest source of PM-2.5 emissions? Glad you asked. The 2017 NEI attributes 4,188,615 tons/year of PM-2.5 emissions to “Miscellaneous Sources.” That’s a shade over 73 percent of the total. Miscellaneous sources are non-industrial, non-transportation related sources of all kinds. In this case, the vast majority of miscellaneous sources consist of wildfires – many of which are the result of pitifully irresponsible forest management in blue states like California – and natural erosion.

Back in the nineties and early 2000s, environmental NGOs like the Sierra Club were all-in supporting natural gas. They recognized that natural gas combustion was inherently cleaner than coal combustion and that the amount of greenhouse gas produced using natural gas was far lower than that amount of greenhouse gas produced using coal on a per megawatt generated basis. They gleefully accepted donations from natural gas producers in order fund initiatives like the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.

Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s second largest natural gas producer, was a big Sierra Club supporter back then, presumably because Chesapeake executives hoped that going “beyond coal” would help their bottom line. They didn’t have the foresight to see that once the enviros actually went beyond coal, natural gas would be the next target of opportunity. I’ve been told by people I trust that several Chesapeake shareholders were something less than pleased when the Sierra Club pivoted from being a natural gas supporter to a natural gas opponent, which is where they and most of their fellow environmental NGOs remain today. In the business of environmental advocacy, as is the case with any other big business, one has to follow the money.

It’s a disappointing story, but I fear that Chesapeake will be far from the last company to jump at the bait when an environmental NGO offers them absolution in return for thirty pieces of silver.

Trouble in the Land of Enchantment

Throughout the 2020 presidential campaign, candidate Joe Biden was rarely left on his own to articulate his economic plan for recovering the pandemic-wounded economy. He and his surrogates so routinely punted on details of his vision for recovery that one might have mistaken them for the 2020 offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys…or worse, the Chargers. Those who voted for him presumed that any Biden plan would include job creation since jobs are foundational to any economic recovery... but even more so after a summer of BLM building-burning and pandemic-driven lock downs.

Oil and gas industry workers were particularly fretful about how a Biden administration would "Build Back Better" when Democrat hostility has underpinned every reference to their industry. They knew well that their industry would bear the brunt of whatever plan the administration eventually conjured up. After all, Biden had promised to end fracking during the second debate…a moment of inadvertent candor that created a momentary panic within his campaign.

By popular demand!

Within days of taking office, it was not job creation that illuminated his path to recovery. Instead, he presented a plan for cutting jobs…. lots of them. President Biden signed an executive order canceling construction of the XL Pipeline. Almost immediately 11,000 direct jobs are on the chopping block for elimination, with an estimated 60,000 additional indirect jobs that will potentially be eliminated. These are well-paying, blue collar jobs. The kind of jobs that represent real economic impact.

Then, days later, it happened again. The Biden administration announced another executive order that will cause further economic destruction. The order directs the Department of the Interior to suspend new oil and natural gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters, concurrent with a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program. According to the press release, the order "will help restore balance on public lands and waters, create jobs, and provide a path to align the management of America’s public lands and waters with our nation’s climate, conservation, and clean energy goals.”

Together these orders portend negative economic implications, reverse positive environmental trends and weaken national security by negatively affecting energy security of the U.S., an achievement of the Trump administration that unquestionably changed the geo-political landscape.

At the state level, the implications are grave. Wells on federal and trust lands account for about 20 percent of the nation’s oil production, and less of its gas output. However, the companies that own these leases pay taxes, based on production. These fees help fund millions of dollars of the budgets of a number of western states and Indian tribes including Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico where the federal lands are located. Of those states perhaps New Mexico and the Ute Indian tribe will be most negatively impacted by the second of these two Executive Orders.

New Mexico hardest hit?

According to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) new analysis, there will be profound negative consequences for New Mexico if a ban on federal leasing and public lands takes effect. New Mexico, which accounts for 57 percent of federal onshore oil production and 31 percent of onshore natural gas production, is projected to lose more than 62,000 jobs by 2022 and more thereafter, This represents more than five percent of all the jobs in the state by 2030. With nearly 40 percent of the state’s budget funded by natural gas and oil production, a ban puts at risk more than $1 billion of federal revenue sharing which helps support New Mexico’s entire budget. New Mexico voters chose candidate Biden to be President Biden. If the oil and gas industry were a nose, the voters of New Mexico just cut it off to spite its own face.

Because of the Biden administration’s attack on U.S. energy production, the implications are also environmentally detrimental. Currently, the U.S. is a net exporter of energy. This was achieved by oil and gas extraction from shale. Natural gas has proven the driver of unprecedented lower emission levels. In fact, the levels have been so low, the Americans led emissions reductions when compared to the bloviating bunch of dooms day Paris Climate Accord signatories.

By removing the ability for the U.S. to produce domestic energy, two things occur. First, the use of coal, which had been on the decline in the U.S. will not end up being retired, as is the current plan. Next, coal generation, according to the API’s analysis, will initially increase by 6 percent under a permit ban, and will continue to increase by 15 percent in 2030. As a result, CO2 emissions will increase by an average of 58 MMT and will continue rising, ultimately representing a 5.5 percent increase by 2030.

Finally, there are the national economic impacts of the proposed permit ban. Immediately following implementation of the federal leasing restrictions, U.S. economic growth will slow. Lower U.S. energy production and higher energy prices will reduce GDP by a cumulative $0.7 trillion according to the API analysis.

It is clear that the Biden administration does not value U.S. economic superiority, nor the impact a strong economy has on our citizens. Instead, the administration seeks to weaken the country by undermining the most foundational element to innovation and economic vitality -- inexpensive and abundant energy, delivered by those working in the oil and gas industry.

Whether it's due to the political and financial debts President Biden and his family and many in the administration have to China, the influence of contributors and environmental extremists, or even more sinister motivations, doesn't matter. As an industry, we must defend our country against the madness of unmaking America. We must engage in the arena of ideas, engage in our state legislators to push back against these attacks and ensure it we drive our own narrative. There is not “someone else” who will do it for us. We must do it on behalf of this great country… to save our industry and save our county.

Toyota Chief on Electric Cars: Slow Down!

The Observer reports on some very striking comments by Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda, on the topic of Electric Vehicles. EVs are hot right now, with the automotive industry investing heavily in them, and governments throughout the world (prominently, as The Observer mentions, those of Great Britain and California) looking to aid their development by banning the sale of gasoline and diesel engines in the not-too-distant future.

But Mr. Toyoda is not convinced that they are the answer. At a recent press conference, he pointed out a few problems with the projected shift to EVs. First, he claimed that “the current business model of the car industry is going to collapse" if the industry shifts to EVs too quickly. No word on whether he thinks that the oft-discussed 10-15 year timeline put forward by activists in and out of government falls into that category, but it wouldn't be surprising if that is exactly what he had in mind.

Next, he pointed out that "Japan [for one] would run out of electricity in the summer if all cars were running on electric power." There just isn't enough electricity to go around, especially with battery technology being what it is. He estimated that "the infrastructure needed to support a 100 percent EV fleet would cost Japan between 14 trillion and 37 trillion yen ($135 billion to $358 billion)," a hefty percentage of GDP for a famously stagnant economy like Japan's.

Worth noting that it is a lot cheaper to generate the electricity a given vehicle needs on site -- that is, within the vehicle itself, as a gasoline powered combustion engine does -- than producing it elsewhere and transporting to the car.

And, following up on that point, he called attention to the fact that "most of the country’s electricity is generated by burning coal and natural gas, anyway," so the stated goal of leaving fossil fuels behind by shifting to EVs isn't going to happen. In his words:

The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets… When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?

Unfortunately the answer to that question is probably "No," both for the politicians and the propagandists in the media.

Pacific Gas? and Electric

Earlier this month, just as the hand of winter tightened her grip across some of the most prolific oil and gas regions in America, city officials in San Francisco demonstrated the disregard they have for the free market and unmasked the contempt they have for hard-working Californians. Fortunately, the oil and gas industry has the opportunity to stand in the gap and protect the future of free markets through continued delivery of low cost, abundant energy.

In what is yet another chapter in the effort by local and state leaders to create government dependence through the methodical dismantling of the free market, the city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban the use of natural gas in new commercial and residential construction in San Francisco. That means natural gas stoves, furnaces, water heaters and appliances will no longer be permitted. Rather, builders will be required to install electric (or solar) powered appliances and heating equipment, fueled by more costly electricity or insufficient solar power.

This is curious since California is a net importer of power, meaning the state does not have enough local power generation capabilities to meet the power demand. Hence the decades of rolling brownouts across the state that plague California’s summers. According to government data, natural gas and solar are the two most prevalent sources of electricity generation in California; however, solar generation is non-dispatchable.

Grid operators have been using natural gas and, to a lesser extent, electricity imports from neighboring areas to contend with changes in demand. San Francisco city government, therefore, just made using natural gas illegal, while mandating the use of already scarce electricity which is generated from natural gas and hydro-electric (dams) sources located outside of California. It feels like some kind of drunken game of Twister doesn’t it?

It's all fun and games until the power goes out.

City officials cited cost savings, public health benefits and a fervor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the move. None of the officials were able to explain how electricity, more expensive and more scarce than natural gas, would produce cost savings.

In fact, depending upon the market, it costs about 30 percent more to operate electric appliances compared to natural gas appliances. Nor could the officials articulate the "standard" by which public health benefits were being measured by this mandate. San Francisco is after all, the city where human feces and hepatitis C-infected drug addicts are strewn about the streets in equal measure, with nary a city health official in sight. If ‘public health benefit’ in San Francisco were a ship, it would be called the Titanic.

In its vote, San Francisco joined nearly forty other California cities which have also banned natural gas in new commercial and residential construction. These actions stand alongside similar efforts around the country. In Washington state, for example, the state, in defiance of the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, sought to ban oil trains transporting oil and gas from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to ports and refineries located along the western shores of the state.

Or the efforts by the Center for Biological Diversity to dismantle four hydro-electric dams on the Snake River in Washington state. Or the effort of Michigan governor Whitmer’s to permanently close Line 5 of the Enbridge pipeline that moves oil to refineries in the region.

Even the most casual observer would deduce that it must be green zealotry that in fact underpins these dreadfully anti-market efforts. During all of this, however, it is notable, that the rates of greenhouse gas emissions are below what would have been required by the infamous Paris Climate Accord. And the U.S. hasn’t even been aligned with the carbon gas-emitting signatory countries for at least four years. These lower emissions rates have been the direct result of the move from coal to natural gas.

The objective becomes increasingly clear then. While asserting concern for climate change, green zealots actually are more interested in control…. control of just about everything. They seek to increase the cost of producing and using these otherwise inexpensive fuels through rules and mandates. Government is artificially manipulating the market in an effort to force consumers and industry into accepting a more expensive, but less desirable quality of life.

Control freaks unite!

And if the market won’t accept this objective? That depends entirely upon the importance the oil and gas industry places on its own future. The industry must be willing to chart its own course and communicate its own narrative if it wants to stop this sinister effort.

Laws and rules like these represent actual threats to the very foundations of the industry and to a free society. Local and state governments across the country seek to wrestle our free-market decisions from us and mandate the quality of life we will be permitted to enjoy. If the industry fails to respond, the next reasonable steps will include outright bans according in accordance with this Orwellian worldview.

These 1984-esque realities will not impede leaders and their cohorts. They will continue to live as they desire. The rules and bans aren’t for them after all. Think Michigan's Whitmer whose husband went boating during its state lockdown, or California governor Newsom’s French Laundry group birthday party during his state’s lockdown. They and their cohorts will assuredly keep using their gas appliances they’ve prohibited others to use in the coming years, while also feeling superior. After all, they recycle, drive Teslas, provide their own canvas bags when shopping at Whole Foods and wear Lululemon leggings while they work out their status anxiety on their Peloton bikes.

As an industry, oil and gas needs to commit to pushing back on these attacks. Inexpensive energy is imperative for a thriving economy, manufacturing excellence, economic mobility, job creation and a future of prosperity. The industry needs to take back control from the preaching class and remind them that their lifestyles have been brought to them by the men and woman of the oil and gas industry. 

What's that Carbon Tax Gonna Cost?

Last week the Trudeau Government announced their brand new anti-climate change initiative, which included a significant hike in the carbon tax. As we discussed at the time, the plan is to increase the current tax of $30 per ton by $15 per year until settling (for now) at $170 per ton.

This is a big increase, but to most people those numbers seem entirely theoretical. A ton of carbon emitted sounds like a lot, and the average Canadian probably sees those numbers and figures that, since his car and furnace together don't emit that much, this doesn't affect him. Of course, this is exactly how Trudeau wants people to approach the issue.

But to set the record straight, Kris Sims of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has helpfully scaled those numbers down to the individual level. Here's what she came up with:

Right now, the federal carbon tax is at $30 per tonne, resulting in a tax of 6.6 cents per litre for gasoline and 8 cents per litre for diesel.... At those rates, filling up a minivan costs nearly $5 extra in the carbon tax, filling a light duty pickup truck costs $8 more and a super duty diesel pickup costs $14 more.... So, now that the feds are going to increase the carbon tax to $170 per tonne, what happens to these everyday costs?

This hike will put the carbon tax up to more than 37.5 cents per litre for gasoline, 45 cents per litre for diesel and 32.8 cents per cubic metre for natural gas. That means that very soon it will cost you $27 extra to fill up a minivan, $45 extra for a light duty pickup truck and $204 extra to fill just one diesel fuel cylinder on those big rig trucks that deliver everything from furniture to food across the country. Remember: this is just for the carbon tax. This doesn’t include the cost of the fuel, other taxes, the GST or the incoming second carbon tax that Trudeau’s government is creating. How many people have an easy extra $45 to fill up their trucks to go to work?

What, me worry?

And that's just for your vehicle. What about keeping your house warm? Sims lays that out as well:

When it comes to heating a home with natural gas, the carbon tax often costs more than the actual fuel being used. Homeowners in British Columbia sent the Canadian Taxpayers Federation their natural gas bills to show the costs. One of the bills showed an average-sized home in Gibsons using 466 cubic metres for one winter month last year, resulting in a carbon tax bill of $35. The homeowners had only used $27 worth of natural gas....

With a carbon tax of 32.8 cents per cubic metre of natural gas, it would cost that homeowner in Gibsons $150 extra in the carbon tax for just one winter month’s worth of natural gas. Based on the average annual use of natural gas in new Canadian homes, it would cost homeowners more than $885 extra in the carbon tax.

Canada is, of course, one of the most northerly nations in the world, but Gibsons, B. C., the town she uses as an example, is hardly one of the coldest areas in the country. In places like Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Arnprior, Ontario, those numbers are going to look at lot worse.

Biden's Dangerous 'Green' Assault on Oil

In an exchange with President Trump during their final debate last week, Joe Biden avidly supported both fracking, which is a major industry in Pennsylvania -- a critical swing state that he needs to win next Tuesday -- and the continued use of fossil fuels. In a normal year, which this manifestly is not, that would not be exceptional.  

The problem is, Biden has been pushed to the left all year, and is now supporting the Green New Deal of his party's radicals. When Trump called him out on this policy shift, Biden denied any change, and challenged Trump to prove that he was lying. Which Trump promptly did:

Biden further undercut himself on stage by stating that under his administration, the U.S. would be seeing an eventual end to the use of fossil fuels. That is why Biden and his staff are now trying to blur, err, clarify, his comment that he would have the country "transition from the oil industry by 2025,” (!!!) when asked by President Donald Trump if he would close down the oil industry.

"It has to be replaced by renewable energy over time, over time. And I'd stop giving to the oil industry. I’d stop giving them federal subsidies," Biden said.

"Basically what he is saying is he is going to destroy the oil industry," Trump retorted. "Will you remember that Texas? Pennsylvania? Oklahoma? Ohio?"

Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who has the most radical policy record in the U.S. Senate, and has been  adamant about ending fracking and fossil fuel production, was among the first primary candidates to be booted by Democrat voters and uninterested donors. And this in a year when a majority of Democrat voters expect her to replace her ailing and mentally diminished boss during the course of his term. 

So is Biden a hypocrite? Is he a liar? Sure. But that is the least of the problems with his willingness to destroy a key national industry in service of the shibboleth of “climate change,” and the full control of the economy that would ensue under the Green New Deal. There are upwards of 300,000 jobs at stake in Pennsylvania, right this minute, which will be destroyed by ending the fossil fuel industries. More hundreds of thousands are at stake as well in Texas and Oklahoma.

Thanks to the Trump Administration's energy policies, the United States is energy independent for the first time in more than half a century. Domestic production is the reason the average price of gas at the pump is hovering down around $2.20 nationally – a huge decrease from average prices during the Obama years.

Energy independence is also a huge national security boon. Some of the biggest foreign policy successes of the Trump administration are arguably a direct result of no longer needing Arab oil. Indeed, the end of the Saudi – and entire Persian Gulf region – oil economy, due to vastly lower demand, has been a prime factor in new Saudi openness to relations with Israel.

Giving up our energy independence at this time to transition to so-called renewable energy sources would be a costly unforced error.

Why Pennsylvania Is in Play

Pennsylvania might be the most hotly contested state in this presidential election, and with good reason. Our fifth most populous state, Pennsylvania is home to two big cities -- Philadelphia and Pittsburgh -- that are flush with the affluent and the underclasses who serve them -- both key Democratic constituencies -- while the rest of the state is dominated by rural, working class voters, who are much more conservatively inclined even when their actual voting patterns are harder to predict.

Republicans have long felt that this second cohort were their natural allies. In the 1980s they were often called Reagan Democrats, and the GOP was convinced that eventually they would come to their senses and become reliable Republicans. But, despite their best efforts, every Democratic candidate from Bill Clinton in 1992 through Barrack Obama in 2012 carried the Keystone State.

That changed in 2016, when rural Pennsylvanians found in Donald Trump a candidate who spoke to their interests and preferences. He won the state by 44,292 votes out of more than 6,000,000 cast, the smallest presidential margin in the state in 176 years.

But this year, the Democrats are determined to win it back. It is very likely that the party establishment decided to go all in on Joe Biden with PA in mind. After all, though he represented Delaware in the Senate for thirty-six years, he never stops reminding voters that he was born in Scranton, and prides himself on his common touch (a questionable characterization).

But beyond that, the Biden camp are offering Pennsylvania's rural voters essentially nothing. Ace reporter Salena Zito, who knows her native state better than anybody, recently spoke to several long-time Democrats in Bethel Park, who all have roughly the same story -- they've been forced to accept that their pro-life, pro-Second Amendment views are no longer welcome in the party. What's more, they've been increasingly disturbed by the Democrat's embrace of rioting and disorder in cities throughout the country, and their tendency to denigrate the police.

And then there's fracking. The natural gas industry, which relies on fracking, employs over 300,000 workers, directly or indirectly, in Pennsylvania. While campaigning for the Democratic nomination, both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren called for a national fracking ban. Joe Biden's position has generally been harder to decipher, but he seems to have settled on a policy of “no more new fracking." while his running mate, Kamala Harris, continues to support a total ban on the practice.

If there's one thing that the aforementioned working class voters care about, it is jobs. Here's Rose Tennent writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer about what fracking has meant for the state:

We allowed responsible, modern natural gas development to go forward, allowing Pennsylvanians to take advantage of some of the world’s greatest shale gas reserves. The result has been an incredible boon to our state and our country. Fracking and the rest of the shale gas revolution saved Pennsylvania from the worst depths of the Great Recession. When our workers were hurting the most in 2008 and 2009, the shale fields eventually catapulted Pennsylvania back to prosperity by restoring the energy dominance that we enjoyed a century earlier. Today, 106,000 Pennsylvanians have mostly well-paid, desirable jobs in the energy sector. That’s a big part of why our state has a 3.9% unemployment rate — a figure that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago.

Those figures are from before the pandemic and the lockdowns, of course, which together brutalized both the economy overall and the resource industry specifically. But the potential for the industry to rebound and the jobs to come back once the lockdowns are relaxed is real, so long as as they're allowed to. Biden's position, which amounts to "read my lips, No Future Fracking Jobs," seems designed to ensure that that that never happens.

There's some in every crowd.

Beyond the benefits it brings for the state itself, Tennent points out that, largely because of fracking, "America as a whole has become energy independent for the first time since we became dependent on imported oil from the Middle East in the 1960s." Hydraulic fracturing doesn't only create jobs stateside, it also makes it so the price of heating our homes and filling up are gas tanks aren't reliant on the whims of OPEC or political stability in the notoriously volatile area surrounding the Strait of Hormuz.

This is very appealing for working class Americans in Pennsylvania, many of whom were wary of the Bush-era Republican Party's middle eastern adventurism. American energy independence removes one of the major justifications for getting involved in the constant squabbles in that part of the world. Consequently, from the perspective of those Americans who both benefit from well paying blue collar jobs in the natural gas industry and disproportionately serve in the military, fracking goes down as a win/win.

So, while polling out of Pennsylvania for this election cycle has been, in the words of elections analyst Jim Geraghty, "boringly consistent," with Biden ahead in nearly every poll for the past several months, reports of a noticeable shift in people registering as Republicans hasn't been surprising. As Geraghty explained recently in National Review,

In November 2016, Pennsylvania had 4.2 million registered Democrats, 3.3 million registered Republicans, and 1.2 million registered with “other parties” or none. By 2020, Pennsylvania had 4.09 million registered Democrats, 3.29 registered Republicans, and 1.21 million registered with other parties. Then the parties began their post-primary voter-registration drives — and Republicans added a net 135,619 voters between June and the final week of September, while Democrats added 57,985 and other voters increased by 49,995.... Add it all up: Democrats are down 66,778 registered members from November 2016, while the Republicans added 125,381, and “other” is up 61,313.

I recently took a trip to Pennsylvania, and it was impossible to miss two things. First, the never-ending cacophony of paid advertisements that are ostensibly pro-Biden, but in actuality anti-Trump. On TV and the radio, you hear over and over tear-jerking stories about someone who lost his job or a family member because Covid-19 (with no explanation as to how Biden would have handled the pandemic differently), ending with the command "vote him out." But the other notable thing was that, driving around the countryside, there must have been ten Trump signs for every Biden sign.

Now, you may object that is a non-scientific measurement, of course, but coupled with the differences in registration, it increases my suspicion that, like in 2016, the polling out of Pennsylvania isn't telling the whole story. Which is to say, the professional forecasters might once again be in for a rude awakening on election night.

On Fracking, It's Biden vs. Biden

Back in March, when people were still unironically saying "Fifteen days to slow the spread," I wrote about the absolute fury the Biden campaign was directing at Republicans over their claims that the former vice president wanted to ban the modern marvel known as fracking. I suggested that Republicans could be forgiven for making these claims -- as RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted, "There are 7.3M Americans whose jobs depend on fracking. Biden and Bernie would eliminate them" -- because Biden's actual position on fracking seemed fairly hard to decipher:

[W]hen Bernie Sanders said he wanted to stop “fracking as soon as we possibly can,” and that he was “talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they are going to stop destroying this planet—no ifs, buts and maybes about it” in the debate the other night, Biden replied "So am I!" His position is as clear as the noonday sun! Oh, or, er, maybe not so much...

Well, Sleepy Joe is at it again, having said at a speech earlier this week in Pittsburgh, Pa., "I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again: I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me."

What a relief that must be to the more than 40,000 men and women who work in the natural gas industry in the state of Pennsylvania (which, it is worth noting, Trump won by just over 40,000 votes)!

Then again, maybe they shouldn't be too reassured, since, as Hank Berrien documents, Biden's own words seem to point in the opposite direction:

On January 24, 2020, speaking to a New Hampshire voter, Biden said he would stop fracking. The woman voter asked, “But like, what about, say, stopping fracking?” Biden answered, “Yes.” Woman voter: “And stopping pipeline infrastructure?” Biden: “Yes.”

On March 15, 2020, a Democratic presidential debate between Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, [Biden said]: "No more, no new fracking."

Also in that debate, Biden stated, “Number one, no more subsidies for fossil fuel industry. No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one.” ....

At a Democratic presidential debate in late July 2019, CNN’s Dana Bash asked Biden, “Just to clarify, would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?” Biden answered, “No. We would — we would work it out. Make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those. Either — any fossil fuel.”

Which is to say, if the claim that Biden opposes fracking is "fake news" from Team Trump, than Crazy Grandpa Joe is in on the conspiracy.