Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed that he “never said I oppose fracking” when pressed by President Donald Trump on the issue during Thursday night’s presidential debate.
“You said it on tape,” Trump replied.
Facts First: It’s false that Biden never said he opposed fracking. In two Democratic primary debates, Biden made confusing remarks over fracking that his campaign had to clarify. In 2019, Biden said “we would make sure it’s eliminated” when asked about the future of coal and fracking; in 2020 he said he opposed “new fracking.” Biden’s written plan, conversely, never included a full ban on fracking or even on new fracking. Rather, it proposes “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters” — not ending all new fracking anywhere or ending all existing fracking on public lands and waters.
Biden created confusion about his stance with some of his comments during the Democratic primary. For example, he had this exchange with CNN’s Dana Bash during a July 2019 debate:
Bash: “Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Just to clarify, would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?”
Biden: “No, we would — we would work it out. We would make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, either — any fossil fuel.”
Afterwards, Biden’s campaign clarified that he “supports eliminating subsidies for coal and gas and deploying carbon capture.”
Biden also said he was against “new fracking” in a Democratic primary debate in March when challenged by his opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, on the issue of climate change. His campaign clarified to reporters that same evening that Biden was reiterating his plan to ban oil and gas permits on public land, not a complete ban on new fracking, which a president cannot do.
Without an act of Congress, the President could not issue an outright ban on fracking across the US. There are, however, a number of regulatory and executive actions an administration could take to prevent or shrink the use of fracking technology, particularly on federal land. The problem is that most fracking takes place on private land, and any attempts to limit it would likely face legal challenges.