(Headline USA) Democrat Joe Biden‘s remark that he would “transition” away from oil in the U.S. in favor of renewable energy drew quick attention Thursday night from President Donald Trump, who saw it as a boon to his election chances in key states.
“I would transition away from the oil industry, yes,” Biden said in the presidential debate‘s closing minutes under peppering from Trump. “The oil industry pollutes, significantly. It has to be replaced by renewable energy over time.”
The Biden campaign’s climate plan calls for the U.S. to have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. And he repeated his pledge to end federal subsidies for the oil and gas industry.
Still, Trump seemed surprised and pleased by Biden’s comment, declaring it a “big statement,” and suggesting it would come with political blowback in oil-producing states that stand to lose jobs.
“Basically what he is saying is he is going to destroy the oil industry,” Trump said. “Will you remember that Texas? Pennsylvania? Oklahoma? Ohio?”
Trump won all four states in 2016, but Pennsylvania in particular is a pivotal swing state this cycle, with both candidates investing heavily. Ohio is also in play, and Democrats even see Texas as a longshot pickup on an expanded electoral map.
After the debate, Biden told reporters he would not “ban” fossil fuels or move away from them for “a long time.”
Advocates who fight “climate change” say it means sharply cutting oil, gas and coal emissions, and that means eliminating most burning of fossil fuels. Biden talks of a 30-year transition to a carbon-free economy, by encouraging costly and inefficient wind and solar power and more energy efficiency. He has adopted most of the “Green New Deal,” most identified with socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, as his own plan.
The back-and-forth came as the debate came to a close, during a segment on how the candidates would respond to climate change — a topic voters consistently rank as least important among issues. Biden says the country has a moral obligation to tackle climate change.
Politically, Republicans see Biden’s comments as potentially damaging to Democrats in states that rely on the oil and gas industry. Trump has sought to make hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), a process of oil and natural gas extraction, a key issue in Pennsylvania.
Biden has said repeatedly in the past he would ban fracking, but now says he wouldn’t.
Biden literally (and foolishly) asked for this fact check & now he’s got it. https://t.co/nQW5Cu189t
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 23, 2020
Pennsylvania is both a leading battleground state in the presidential election and a leader in the nation’s fracking boom. Trump has been eager on frequent campaign trips there to cut a contrast between himself and Biden on the issue. Trump touts his support for a sector he says brings economic benefits to rural areas and jobs to construction workers. The state says the oil and gas sector employs about 26,000 workers there.
Biden’s comments could add headaches for Democrats in oil-heavy states. Rep. Kendra Horn, an Oklahoma Democrat who flipped a Republican seat in 2018, tweeted that she disagreed with him.
“We must stand up for our oil and gas industry. We need an all-of-the-above energy approach that’s consumer friendly, values energy independence and protects OK jobs,” she wrote.
The American Petroleum Institute, a trade association representing the oil and gas industry, said restricting oil and gas production would “jeopardize America’s economic recovery,” increase energy costs, eliminate jobs and shift energy production oversees.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.