In Democratic primary, fossil-fuel bans rule — even for centrists

Houston Chronicle | James Osborne | February 10, 2020

WASHINGTON - The prospect of the federal government enacting bans to limit oil and gas production is becoming more real going into Tuesday night’s New Hampshire Democratic Primary as climate change takes up increasing bandwidth in American politics.

Both Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who placed first and third respectively in Iowa’s caucus last week, have pledged to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing if elected president. And before you label them extremists, consider that almost every Democratic candidate, including avowed centrists Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg, has pledged to stop leasing federal lands for extracting of oil, natural gas and coal.

“In these debates, there’s been a real focus on doing away with fossil fuels and oil and gas,” said Dan Naatz, senior vice president of government relations and political affairs at the trade group Independent Petroleum Association of America. “I don’t think there’s ever been about this amount of rhetoric in the Democratic primaries.”

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Just banning hydraulic fracturing on federal land would seriously hamper oil and gas production across New Mexico, Wyoming and North Dakota, three of the country’s largest oil and gas producing states. For instance, in one of New Mexico’s largest oil and gas fields, the Delaware Basin, between 63 and 82 percent of the well completions by Occidental Petroleum, Devon Energy and Concho Resources were on federal land, according to an analysis by the research firm Rystad Energy.

But the effects of such a ban pale in comparison to the outright ban proposed by Warren and Sanders, extending to private lands in states such as Texas.

“If fracking is banned in the whole country, we will see a full collapse of the U.S. (shale production),” said Artem Abramov, head of shale research at Rystad. “The pace of depletion will result in a massive shock for global energy markets with OPEC, Russia, US conventional and other supply sources struggling to replace the loss from the U.S.”

To be fair, Sanders has said his fracking ban would not, “happen overnight.” Legislation he introduced last month with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., proposes to ban fracking beginning in 2025.

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