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Fracking bans will cost Democrats the White House

It often seems as if Democrats want to reelect Donald Trump. Why else would their top presidential candidates advocate a ban on fracking, the drilling technique that supports millions of jobs and accounts for half of all U.S. oil production?

Such a disastrous proposal will alienate the swing voters Democrats need next November. If candidates want a real shot at the White House, they would be wise to adopt President Obama’s pro-fracking approach.

Over the past decade, advances in fracking have made the United States the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas.

A fracking ban would undo this progress overnight. Such a policy would reduce U.S. crude oil production by 6 million barrels each day. Removing that energy from the market would likely cause a global depression.

America’s economy would suffer the most. A fracking ban would eliminate nearly 3 million jobs and cost our economy more than $430 billion a year. It’s no wonder the head of the International Energy Agency recently said that cutting off oil and gas production is not advisable for “the U.S. government or another government in the world.”

But a fracking ban isn’t just economically disastrous. It’s political suicide.

Any Democrat who wants to win the presidency in 2020 will have to carry Pennsylvania — a state that broke Republican in 2016 for the first time in nearly three decades.

Pennsylvanians have benefited quite a bit from the fracking revolution. The oil and gas industry contributes more than $44 billion to the state’s economy each year, and supports over 322,000 jobs. Crippling this vital industry is no way to win votes in the Keystone State.

Still, many Democratic candidates have made opposition to fracking a major part of their campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has promised to “ban fracking — everywhere” on her first day as president. Sens. Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders have also pledged to ban the practice, as has former Vice President Joe Biden.

Even for Democrats, this position is extreme. After all, it was a Democratic president who oversaw the early years of the fracking boom.

Throughout his time in the White House, President Obama supported the domestic energy renaissance. As he boasted during his 2013 State of the Union address, “After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more natural gas than ever before — and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.”

Obama-era officials have even criticized proposed alternatives to fossil fuels. For instance, Sen. Sanders wants the United States to shift to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2030. But former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has said it’s “not realistic” to expect such a shift, even by 2050.

That’s because the types of innovations needed to wean the world off fossil fuels don’t even exist yet. And until they do, low-income Americans rely on oil and gas for affordable energy. Already almost a third of middle- and lower-class Americans struggle to afford their home heating costs.

Any Democrat who wants to win the White House will need to follow President Obama’s lead and take a more moderate approach to fracking. If they don’t, they might as well congratulate President Trump on his reelection now.

Zak Radzak is president of Teamsters General Local Union 346 based in Duluth, Minnesota.

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