My favorite part of this concession from the Washington Post about Joe Biden’s incoherence on energy policy? Framing it as a “Republicans Pounce!®” moment. From the beginning, Biden has tried to eat his cake and have it too on domestic energy production while American media outlets pretended not to notice. Even here, the Post calls Biden’s two-faced pronouncements — declaring an end to fossil fuel production in the US during the primaries while denying he ever said it in the federal election — “walk[ing] a careful line.”
Thanks to Biden finally telling the truth in the last debate after tiring out at the end, the Trump campaign has been vindicated on this point. And that matters not just for Biden, but for Democrats who tried to “walk” that same false line with him:
For months, the Democratic presidential nominee has walked a careful line with policies and rhetoric calibrated to satisfy both sides of the long-simmering divisions in the Democratic Party over climate change, fossil fuels and how to talk about them in the campaign while seeking to head off attacks from Republicans. But in the last days of the race, that balancing act has been thrust into jeopardy, creating new challenges for Democrats up and down the ballot.
“Trump, he’s obviously looking for something to try and hang his hat on at this point, said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), whose district abuts the border with Pennsylvania, a region where fracking is a major issue. “That’s what makes it difficult.”
The United States is already moving away from fossil fuels, and carbon emissions must go down by 7 percent each year by 2030 to avoid catastrophe, but President Trump and his allies seized on Biden’s comments throughout the weekend, portraying them as evidence that he is beholden to his party’s left wing and would eliminate many blue-collar jobs. Some moderate House Democrats in competitive districts where oil is an economic engine distanced themselves from the remarks. And liberals who championed a sweeping “Green New Deal” climate blueprint vowed to pressure Biden to go big on climate change if elected.
The effect has been a muddying of the Democratic Party’s stance, forcing Biden and other candidates into a defensive posture with just over a week until Election Day.
Biden hasn’t walked a careful line as much as he’s talked out of both sides of his face on energy production. As Matt Lewis writes today, it’s the result of attempting to “serve two masters” in the 2020 election cycle. Biden pandered to progressives in the primary to flank Bernie Sanders on the Left. Now, Biden’s trying old-school politics to come back to the center without losing either. Until Thursday night, Biden got away with it, thanks to his ability to parse his wording and media “fact checks” that ignored his explicit pledges to ban fracking and end fossil-fuel production.
Now that Trump led Biden by the nose down the primrose path, the media cover no longer holds. Now it’s every Democrat for himself, and Biden exposed on more than just climate change:
Almost immediately, vulnerable Democrats started distancing themselves from the comments. “I disagree with VP Biden’s statement tonight,” New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small tweeted. “Energy is part of the backbone of New Mexico’s economy…” Likewise, Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn said, “Here’s one of the places Biden and I disagree. We must stand up for our oil and gas industry.”
Politicians have parochial and pecuniary reasons for their public policy preferences, but here’s why I think this issue is even bigger: Biden calls climate change an “existential threat,” but America faces other existential threats—such as China and Russia (there’s a reason why Vladimir Putin hates fracking). As Daniel Yergin, author of The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations, tells me: “Overall, this new position resulting from fracking is a fundamental contribution to U.S. energy security.”
Energy policy is about jobs and money, yes, but it also has national security and geopolitical ramifications. “The shale revolution and America’s regaining energy independence have bolstered U.S. foreign policy and augmented America’s position in the world,” Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, continues.
The national-security aspect is almost more important than the economic ramifications. If we don’t produce our own energy, we go back to dependency on output from unstable regions. That increases the need for US military intervention to secure our energy supplies, and with it the risk of more foreign wars. The rise in oil prices will benefit Russia and Iran most of all, two of our geopolitical foes who desperately need that economic and strategic boost. It’s sheer idiocy, made more so by the Trump administration’s debunking of the oft-posited Obama-Biden claim that we couldn’t drill our way to energy independence.
Over at RedState, our colleague Shipwreckedcrew points out the reasons why the media now has to cover Biden’s actual deceit on energy after making it plain in the debate. It impacts a lot more than Pennsylvania:
One thing I learned many years ago was the basic idea that lower energy prices were, in effect, a tax cut. Lower gas prices at the pump, lower utility bills for the house, lower costs for fuel-intensive industries like farming, lower production costs for consumer goods that are made from petroleum-based products — all leave more money in an individual’s pocket every month.
Hydraulic fracturing is currently used in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. I think this list is a bit outdated, and its probably in more widespread use. …
Social media has effectively throttled the emerging stories of Biden’s corruption involving the business dealings of his son Hunter in China and elsewhere, but the “oil” issue raised by Biden’s debate comment was such that all the major media outlets long in the tank for Biden are being forced to acknowledge the implications over the next 9 days until the election. And so have the Democrat Party.
Republicans aren’t pouncing here. Democrats are recoiling. And likely, so are a large number of voters.