Former Vice President Joe Biden’s comments about transitioning away from fossil fuels may or may not hurt his chances of defeating President Donald Trump on Nov. 3, but critics say the real-world costs of his proposal are all but incalculable.
At the end of the Oct. 22 debate between the two men, Biden claimed he doesn’t oppose fracking, which is the source of more than 300,000 energy industry jobs in Western Pennsylvania, a state that both men know they must carry if they are to win the election.
Biden said he “would transition from the oil industry, yes … because the oil industry pollutes significantly.” Trump immediately jumped on Biden’s comment, noting that it wouldn’t be popular among voters in energy job-rich states like Pennsylvania, Texas, and others.
Biden’s comment, his post-debate attempts to clarify it, and his platform’s support of transforming the U.S. economy to all-renewable energy in 15 years has focused new attention on the rarely discussed issue of what doing so would cost.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told The Epoch Times on Oct. 28: “Biden’s complicity in the destruction of our productive capacity took a new turn last week when he called for an end to the U.S. fossil fuel industry. Not only would this eliminate countless jobs, but it would also make America more reliant on foreign nations for our energy needs.
“At a time when the U.S. is energy independent and taking steps to increase and diversify our domestic industrial capacity, it’s clear Biden’s plan would be a risk to our economic and national security.”
Lauren Aronson, a spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose state has long been the nation’s biggest oil producer, told The Epoch Times on Oct. 28 that voters shouldn’t “be fooled by Biden’s recent rhetoric. ‘Transitioning’ America’s blue-collar economy away from fossil fuels is code for imposing the left’s radical environmental agenda, she said.
“If elected, Joe Biden will ban fracking at the expense of hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs, eviscerate our energy independence, and raise costs for energy consumers across the country,” Aronson said.
Similarly, Institute for Energy Research (IER) Distinguished Senior Fellow Dan Kish told The Epoch Times on Oct. 27 that “there is no way to live without petroleum in today’s everyday life. The cost of doing it may not even be quantifiable.”
Citing a recent study by the American Petroleum Institute (API), critics like Cruz and Kish argue that the projected costs just of Biden’s initial transition steps—ending oil and natural gas production on federal lands and offshore leases—would be unacceptable, including:
- The loss of up to 7.5 million U.S. jobs in 2022.
- A cumulative decrease by 2030 of $7.1 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP).
- Household incomes would drop by $5,400 annually.
- Household energy costs would spiral by more than $600 per year.
- Farm incomes would plunge 43 percent due to higher energy costs.
Regardless, there is evidence of public support for transitioning to an economy powered solely by renewable energy forms such as solar and wind.
An Oct. 23 Morning Consult/Politico flash poll conducted shortly after the last presidential debate found that 57 percent of the respondents favor transitioning away from fossil fuels.
“In the same poll, 24 percent of respondents said they’d heard ‘a lot’ about Biden’s debate-stage remark that he wants to transition from the oil industry over time,” Politico reported. “Thirty-six percent said they’d heard ‘some’ on the remark, while 17 percent said they’d heard ‘not much’ and 23 percent said they’d heard nothing at all.”
But Jon Haubert, a spokesman for the American Energy Alliance (AEA), told The Epoch Times that “what’s often conveniently left out on these questions (or the press release) is how much people are willing to pay when they realize this transition isn’t free.”
Haubert noted that in a May 2020 survey of 1,000 likely voters, AEA said “the median answer (which had been trending towards $50 for a number of years) was $20, with 32 percent of respondents answering ‘zero.’”
The biggest conundrum facing advocates of Biden’s transition, however, is the fact that the U.S. economy, like most of the rest of the world, is based on fossil fuels, including oil, natural gas, and coal—and not just for powering cars and generating electricity.
Petroleum and products made at least in part from it are pervasive in American life, including everything from antiseptics, cortisones, and antihistamines at the pharmacy, to football cleats and helmets, fishing rods and line, and lipstick and deodorant.
Some transition advocates recognize the problem, as in a 2011 Washington Post op-ed in which the authors conceded that “the list of essentials that we’d soon be doing without is prodigious: virtually all plastics, paints, medicines, hospital machines that go ‘bleep,’ Barbie dolls, ballpoint pens, breast implants, golf balls.”
Spokesmen for Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc