Former Vice President Joe Biden, a front runner to be the next president of the United States, earlier this month guaranteed to a young voter that he would “end fossil fuels.” Sen. Bernie Sanders, another leading candidate for president, said some oil and gas executives should be jailed. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren, not to be outdone, tweeted that she wants to ban hydraulic fracturing everywhere.
If anything, the hot air from this race is what’s heating the planet.
These are the front-runners for the Democratic nomination to lead the free world. We have to take their positions – and their rhetoric – seriously. So, let’s take a quick look at what would happen if they end “fossil fuels” and ban fracking on Jan. 20, 2021.
1. The environment would suffer. Our air would get dirtier immediately as the United States and every country that relies on our clean burning natural gas would begin burning vast amounts of coal to power the grid and heat/cool homes and businesses. The United States has cut carbon pollution more than any other major economy, thanks to natural gas and renewables.
2. Energy prices would skyrocket, and the most vulnerable among us would suffer. The cost to heat and cool our homes would go up, making it difficult for those on fixed incomes as they would have to choose between food, medicine, or warmth.
3. The world would become less safe. Countries, including the United States, would be forced to depend on despots, dictators and less stable countries to supply our energy. The United States is the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas in the world, and we’re quickly becoming a net exporter, which is a powerful geopolitical dynamic that makes our world safer. Shifting additional power to energy rich countries like Russia, Venezuela and OPEC members is a mistake.
4. More than 1 million people across the United States could lose their jobs. There would be no “just” transition to other jobs if you ban fracking on Day 1. In Colorado alone, more than 100,000 people could lose their jobs. The average oil and natural gas job pays more than $100,000.
5. Our economy would tank. The oil and natural gas industry is an economic engine, powering investment and good paying jobs. From 2008-15, six jobs were created in Texas and North Dakota for every one job created in the 48 other states. Without this industry, home values would drop, and the service industry and retailers would suffer.
6. Students would lose. In Colorado, schools could be forced to consolidate, decrease classroom days or increase classroom sizes as more than $600 million in annually funding disappears within a few years.
7. Critical infrastructure would go unfunded. At the national level the Land and Water Conservation Fund could disappear, which is funded by oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, providing billions in grants that support public lands, waters, forests, endangered species, and our national parks. In Colorado, funding for water projects, fire districts, and literacy programs could dry up as the state loses millions in severance tax dollars from oil and natural gas.
8. Manufacturing costs would go up, meaning costs for consumers would go up. Low energy costs have increased manufacturing in the United States so those jobs likely would be lost as well. It is no coincidence that low energy costs fuel an economy, and the fact we’ve experienced a prolonged period of low natural gas prices has been a powerful economic benefit.
9. Charitable organizations and nonprofits would suffer. In 2018, Colorado Oil and Gas Association members gave more than $17 million to local nonprofits and donated more than 70,000 hours of volunteer work.
10. Our independence and values as a nation would be diminished. Not only would the United States rely on foreign countries for our energy needs, but the constitutional private property rights at the core of our democracy would be slashed as mineral owners would no longer be able to access their property.
Responsible oil and natural gas development benefits every single American as our air gets cleaner, our economy gets stronger and our country becomes safer. 2020 candidates are doing a tremendous disservice to our country by peddling reckless policies that ultimately will hurt the country.
Voters deserve an honest debate about the pros and cons of domestic oil and natural gas production. But most of all, they deserve to hear about how we can all work together to build an energy future that’s safe, clean, reliable and affordable for all of us.
Dan Haley is President and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.