ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ROB PORT: Expect fracking to fade if Clinton or Sanders win

MINOT--Hydraulic fracturing took a beating at a recent debate between the Democratic presidential candidates. Herald readers probably know the term better as fracking, the oil development technique that has unlocked oceans of new oil and gas rese...

MINOT-Hydraulic fracturing took a beating at a recent debate between the Democratic presidential candidates.

Herald readers probably know the term better as fracking, the oil development technique that has unlocked oceans of new oil and gas reserves and set off a national economic boom with epicenters in places such as North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania.

But the Democrats hate fracking.

"Do you support fracking?" the candidates were asked during a debate in Flint, Mich. I guess the question was considered topical given that city's struggles with contaminated water and the myth, perpetuated in left-wing environmental circles, that fracking is a threat to water safety.

Hillary Clinton, whose campaign has enjoyed North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's enthusiastic support since 2013, said she'd regulate the process to death.

ADVERTISEMENT

"By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place," Clinton told the debate audience.

Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders was more succinct. "My answer is a lot shorter," he said. "No. I do not support fracking."

The irony here is that these two probably wouldn't be vying to replace an incumbent Democrat were it not for fracking. I'd argue that it was fracking that helped Barack Obama get elected to a second term.

Exit polls from the 2012 election conducted by the Associated Press showed that six in 10 Americans rated the economy as their top concern. The only bright spot in the economy back then was the energy industry.

According to data collected by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, during Obama's first term in office, the number of jobs related to oil and gas development grew 40 percent. The rest of the economy-all non-farm payrolls outside of the energy industry-saw negative growth.

Absent the shale oil and gas revolution set off by hydraulic fracturing, the American economy would have been in shambles in 2012. That might have helped Mitt Romney win the election.

Today, we can sense that this is true simply by observing the facts around us. Energy prices are at rock bottom lows. Gas prices, in particular, have fallen off a cliff, going from a national average of more than $3.50 per gallon two years ago to about $1.70 per gallon last month.

In any other political and media environment, that sort of news would be worthy of a ticker tape parade. Yet in 2016, the news is that our national economy is teetering on the edge of a recession.

ADVERTISEMENT

How can that be?

Maybe because those falling energy prices have hit the energy industry hard. Low energy prices, normally good economic news, have been tough for a national economy that was leaning hard on energy jobs.

On a related note, Clinton's increasingly strident anti-energy rhetoric is going to be a big political problem for Heitkamp.

Clinton has announced opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which was one of Heitkamp's big campaign promises leading up to her oh-so-narrow Election Day victory in 2012.

The former secretary of state, beneficiary of a $5,000 contribution from Heitkamp's political action committee, also has said she would block oil and coal development on federal lands.

At some point, Heitkamp is going to have to account for endorsing a presidential candidate whose policies would be devastating for North Dakota's economy.

Port, founder of sayanythingblog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator.

Related Topics: HEIDI HEITKAMP
What To Read Next