Revoking the Rust Belt

Joe Biden upended the historic formula of a Democratic presidential nominee. Usually, the hopeful plays his liberal greatest hits to the primary crowd, before tacking to the center as the election dawns and ordinary Americans start listening.

Since his assisted capture of the nomination, Biden has veered leftward, crafting, with the help of the party’s progressive wing, the most progressive platform since the ill-fated George McGovern in 1972.

This is not, as some attest, a political rebirth, but the reparations Biden and the party must pay to those the establishment bilked of the big prize.

The fractures within this forced marriage were first sealed with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) help—the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force scored some big wins, shunting Biden’s energy platform into what supporters have assured is the “most aggressive climate change plan of any presidential candidate in U.S. history.”

At the final presidential debate, these cracks finally burst open. Biden first committed to collapsing the oil industry, then, as the realization washed over his otherwise squinted eyes, insisted such a change would be transitory: “I would transition from the oil industry, yes,” he said.

Biden’s in trouble. His unlikely candidacy relies on regular blood transfusions from the Democratic Party’s “climate justice” wing. In dive bar parlance, “climate justice” means end fossil fuels and ban fracking.

Again, Biden insisted “I never said I opposed fracking!” Yet even CNN rated that claim false in what is perhaps the first time that network and American Greatness have found agreement.

Biden has morphed from position to position—to some he’d ban fracking, to others he’d transition from fracking, to others still he’d leave fracking alone.

Fracking is a process designed to extract fossil fuels from shale rock formations. In Pennsylvania alone, fracking provides 32,000 high-paying jobs to workers whose ancestral generations NAFTA condemned to economic apartheid and social decay.

Biden’s “transition” away from fossil fuels would dissolve the livelihoods of millions of Americans in Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Dakota, and New Mexico.

The U.S. oil and gas industry supports 10.3 million jobs, paying an average salary of $101,000, and pumping $1.3 trillion into the U.S. economy last year alone.

Biden later revisited his statement, saying that he would end fossil fuel subsidies, and insisting: “We’re not getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time . . . probably 2050.” Displaced workers, he said, would be ushered into alternative work—much like NAFTA’s orphans were assured the same.

Endangered Democrats broke with Biden. U.S. Representative Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) insisted the party standard-bearer’s position was “one of the places where Biden and I disagree.”

Another, Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) said Biden was “out of touch with the reality on the ground” and warned against Biden’s “demonization” of the industry.

That industry did not take kindly to Biden’s comments. Mike Sommers, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute said in a statement:

Democrats, Republicans and Independents know that the U.S. natural gas and oil industry delivers affordable and reliable energy to American families and businesses and all over the world.

We are proud of the grit, innovation and progress we’ve made so that Americans no longer have to choose between environmental progress and access to affordable, reliable and cleaner energy. And we aren’t going anywhere.

Like the process of fracking, Biden’s comments cracked through the Democratic Party’s foundations. Biden’s appeal to the party establishment rests on his electability, his moderate magnetism. To win, Biden must reconquer the Rust Belt and recapture blue-collar Democrats, the fabled Obama-Trump voters, millions of whom deserted a party hostile to their interests for President Trump’s Rust Belt revival.

This strategy runs right through Pennsylvania, a state in which 80 percent said the oil and gas industries provide “some” or a “great deal” of value to them personally. A full 67 percent said those industries would remain “essential” to America even by 2040. That’s only 10 years before Biden’s fossil fuel transition deadline.

Such a transition would cost millions of jobs and juke the gas pumps to $6 a gallon, hurting not just the same Americans whom NAFTA consigned to economic wastelands, but all Americans.

Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources, said after the debate that “$6 gas” would adorn a Biden presidency, and rupture economic recovery.

“If Biden is elected and his plan on energy is adopted, he will send America into a deep depression and millions of jobs will be lost in Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma, North Dakota and we will once again be beholden to foreign rogue regimes for our energy.” 

Biden’s energy platform pays tribute to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal, deadlining net zero emissions by 2050.

Wayne Christian, head of the regulatory Texas Railroad Commission, said Biden’s sophomoric zero-emissions goal was “impossible,” would hurt American families, and destroy the economy.

The Democratic nominee is careful as one can be in mapping a safe path between conflicting party interests. The climate justice wing demands punishing measures, measures demanding Democratic voters lose their jobs.

This year, Biden’s fracking position has morphed from a full ban to a phase-out, to “no new fracking.”

The latter, Biden seemingly believes, is a neat sop to the warring factions, and a statement he’s more willing to endorse. When questioned, the Biden campaign offers boiler plate insisting he does not support a nationwide fracking ban but will stop all oil and gas drilling on federal lands and will oppose new fracking permits.

Yet, a new study found a fracking ban on federal lands and waters alone would dissolve, by 2022, 1 million U.S. jobs and derail America’s energy independence. Americans by 2030 would spend $20 billion more on surging energy bills.

Biden’s austere relationship with the truth is by design. After his assisted capture of the nomination, the Biden campaign paid reparations to the progressive wing unhappy with his unlikely victory.

The Sanders-Warren wing not only had a major say across a host of policies but was especially present in crafting Biden’s energy platform.

The youth-driven Sunrise Movement described Biden’s platform as a “seismic shift in climate policy at the federal level” telling supporters: “Joe Biden’s plan isn’t everything, but it isn’t nothing at all.”

Inside the campaign, Stef Feldman, Biden’s policy director, told media: “He will demand a worldwide ban on fossil fuel subsidies and lead the world by example, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies in the United States during the first year of his presidency.”

Outside the campaign, Leah Stokes, a noted “climate justice” activist, recently assured that the Unity Task Force was “extremely successful” scoring major wins for the movement in a plan she baptized the “most aggressive climate change plan of any presidential candidate in U.S. history.”

The climate justice movement shares with Kamala Harris, the vice presidential nominee’s unequivocal position: ban fracking.

A ban on fracking would kill 6 million jobs across seven states by 2025—600,000 Pennsylvanians would join the welfare rolls, and the blue-collar renaissance would disappear with them.

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About Christopher Gage

Christopher Gage is a British political journalist and a founding member of the Gentlemen of the Swig. Subscribe to his Substack, "Oxford Sour."

Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

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