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Just last week, Joe Biden once again reaffirmed his commitment to killing the fossil fuel industry. Ironically enough, it was fossil fuel development, namely natural gas and the fracking boom, that accounted for the vast majority of growth and job creation during the economic “recovery” of his President Barack Obama. The wannabe 46th president wants to end fossil fuel production by 2035, beginning at a time when the nation will be rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic. Should Biden have his cake and eat it too?
Let’s take a quick review of the Obama economy that Biden is happy to take credit for and seeks to emulate. The economy under Obama averaged just 2% GDP growth, the “new normal,” as New York Times opinion columnist Paul Krugman named it. To be fair, assuming office in the middle of a recession is no blessing, but Obama’s attachment to Keynesian economics slowed down the nation’s recovery.
In fact, the Obama administration actively worked to restrict the very industry that led the economy as a percentage of GDP growth. Oil and gas development accounted for nearly half of GDP growth and the hydraulic fracking boom alone accounted for 9.3 million jobs, nearly half of the jobs created during his entire presidency. States such as Texas contributed nearly 70% of all jobs created during the Obama administration. Wage growth for workers in the natural gas industry also skyrocketed, with workers in states such as North Dakota seeing their weekly wages increase up to 40% post-shale boom. Without oil and gas development, there would have been almost no economic or job growth during the Obama administration.
Energy production laid the foundation for energy independence. Offshore drilling and the shale boom resulted in a decline in imports of foreign oil. By the end of the Obama years, the United States saw a 74% increase in oil production. By 2016, imports of foreign oil had declined by 4 million barrels since before Obama assumed office. Yet, it wasn’t until President Trump implemented a laissez faire approach to energy that America was finally able to achieve energy independence.
The Obama administration, on the other hand, at the behest of far-left environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, did everything it could to impede the fossil fuel industry through executive orders and overregulation. Now, Biden wants to end U.S. fossil fuel production altogether by 2035. Regardless of Obama’s wavering support for the Keystone XL pipeline, for example, the industry and the economy saw tremendous growth thanks to its implementation.
By 2014, 98.5% of fracking occurred on nonfederal lands. Permits for federal onshore extraction during the Obama administration declined. For all the talk of Russian meddling in American affairs, there’s clear evidence the Kremlin funded the anti-fracking movement.
Obama’s push for renewable energy, which focused on wind and solar energy, failed to achieve market dominance. Crony schemes such as Solyndra wound up costing taxpayers. By the end of the Obama administration, renewables only contributed 10% of energy production. Biden wants to “revive” this failed experiment in energy independence.
A recent report from the International Energy Administration indicated that U.S. carbon emissions may have peaked — that’s without the Paris Agreement, the Clean Power Plan, and abundant federal tax breaks and schemes to prop up renewable energy artificially. It goes without saying that U.S. carbon emissions have peaked without the destruction of a major sector of the U.S. economy.
Is Biden listening? Has he considered how voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania might react to his proclamation of doom for the natural gas industry?
Just as Obama couldn’t take credit for the economic boom we are seeing under the Trump administration, Biden can’t claim he will oversee a resurgent economy if he plans to eliminate fossil fuel production. The oil and gas boom powered the economic recovery from the Great Recession. Now, with the U.S. looking to emerge from the COVID-19 downturn, Biden wants to do everything in his power to end U.S. energy dominance.
Adam Brandon (@adam_brandon) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is president and CEO of FreedomWorks.