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Fracking, not Covid, may decide American election

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, a relatively novel way to drill for oil and natural gas from sedimentary shale rock.

SUNIL SHARAN | New Delhi |

People think it’s Covid, law and disorder, etc. that will decide Donald Trump’s fate. None of that. His base is still intact at just over 40 per cent of the electorate.

There is one issue that will decide the outcome of the US presidential election. It’s an issue in the two swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio. What’s going on there? Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, a relatively novel way to drill for oil and natural gas from sedimentary shale rock.

The US is awash in shale oil and gas. Known shale gas reserves are predicted to last 100 years of consumption. India too has shale reserves, but hasn’t explored much, so knows so little. India though has started receiving liquified natural gas from the US.

The 2012 American election found Barack Obama on a slippery slope. The effects of the Great Recession were still withering, but one sector had boomed. Shale oil and gas had created half a million jobs for the economy. Obama didn’t talk about that much, because it was liberally incorrect to support brown energy, but shale tipped Obama over the line.

Obama even went to Poland and China thereafter to promote America’s fracking technology.

In the recent Democratic Party primary debates, the far-left challenger, Bernie Sanders, pressed Joe Biden on fracking. Biden mumbled no new fracking.

In Pennsylvania and Ohio Biden holds a minor lead over Trump. He must win Pennsylvania to win the White House, although there are other more difficult paths to get there because Pennsylvania is a blue state, that is, it traditionally votes Democratic. In 2016, Trump snatched Pennsylvania from Hillary Clinton.

Pennsylvania is also a big fracking state. Its residents would not want to hear no new fracking, especially in these dire economic times. Ohio is much more of a swing state than Pennsylvania, although it has similar issues around fracking.

And then there is Texas, the motherlode of oil and gas in the US. Biden and Trump are running neck and neck there, a state which has generally always been a red state. If Biden can pull off Texas, he can pull off anything. But then there is his comment on no new fracking to deal with.

In the primaries, Biden had to beat Sanders and so he committed to no new fracking. Now he’s saying that he’s not against new fracking. But neither he nor his running mate Kamala Harris tout the benefits of fracking the way Trump does.

Fracking has created almost 10 million new jobs in the US. The green energy sector has barely created any. Yet, Democrats delude themselves with a myth that a Green New Deal will repair and restore the US to new heights. Obama poured tens of billion dollars into the green sector, with little to no results. He then backed away from it. Obama was cunning as a fox.

Is Biden? Biden is under tremendous pressure from Bernie Sanders and his supporters to veer left. Biden has already more or less committed to the Green New Deal, which bans fracking. If Biden talks about the benefits of fracking too much, Sanders’s supporters won’t show up in the election and vote for him. Many of Sanders’s supporters are young and idealistic, also naive. Without their votes, Biden may not win.

Trump just has to go to the states where fracking is prevalent – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, even California -and tout fracking hard. And it’s game over.

Biden will have to renege on the commitment that he made during the primary debates on no new fracking. He will have to voice his support for fracking now, which he has started doing; that is alienating Sanders’s supporters even though Biden is voicing his support for fracking in a mealymouthed manner. Sanders’s supporters on the other hand wish to hear his full-throated opposition to fracking.

Biden is literally caught between the devil and the deep sea. And then he looks like an opportunist as well. He said one thing to win the primaries, and now is saying the opposite thing to win the general election.

Biden and Harris want to avoid the topic of fracking like the plague. Donald Trump should not. He should avoid all this race and law and disorder and Covid vaccine stuff. If he wants to win, he just has to talk up fracking, fracking, fracking, and Joe Biden will be toast.

The writer is an expert on energy and contributes regularly to publications in India and overseas