Sophia Gonzalez

The Biden campaign has prided itself in creating a comprehensive environmental plan. 

That’s why when Joe Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, warded off her opponent, Vice President Mike Pence, when he stated that the Biden administration would put an end to fracking during the presidential debate, climate change activists and young voters concerned about the environmental crisis alike listened in shock.  

“I will repeat, and the American people know, that Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact,” Harris said during the VP debate.

Although the statement itself isn’t shocking, I was surprised that Harris announced it so openly, but when looking at the reasoning behind their decision, perhaps it isn’t so surprising either. Soon after Harris made her statement, different Twitter accounts from both non-official and official sources showed up on my feed condemning the practice of fracking. 

“Fracking is bad, actually,” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted live as the nation watched the debate.

It’s true. Fracking is bad.  

Fracking – it’s proper term hydraulic fracturing – is the process of drilling into a well and injecting water laced with chemicals and sand into the ground in order to extract fossil fuels and oil, which is then used to power our energy, according to the United States Geological Survey. 

Proponents of fracking claim that fracking is safe, but fracking is the cause of a lot of deteriorating consequences to the environment and farming communities. 

The reality is that fracking increases CO2 emissions, contaminates groundwater, pollutes surface water, endangers livestock and depletes soil quality. Scientists have also found that fracking can cause earthquakes. 

When oil companies drill on the ground, they are extracting oil, but during that process, they can unwittingly cause contaminated water run-off. Run-off from fracking can be absorbed by nearby plant-life or agricultural land through absorption or run-off into surface water. 

“[The Environmental Protection Agency] found scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances,” according to the EPA Fact Sheet.

It is important to note that EPA’s report also stated that it is difficult to gather information about fracking locations because they’re either not documented or just hard to get a hold of, which should be cause for concern when we are in the midst of an environmental crisis and scientists believe that fracking causes harm to the environment. 

Yet on top of environmental impact, fracking also impacts the livelihood of farmers as well. 

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association has gathered testimonies from farmers whose crops are affected by fracking in their community. In their testimonies, farmers talk about how agricultural land suffers because of fracking. 

What usually happens, is that big oil companies look for land so that they can extract oil and fossil fuels from underground, so they ask farmers to sign leases to gain the right to access their land. Usually, it starts through mailing offers, but representatives are known to call almost every day and to show up at farmer’s houses.

This is what’s happening to Alex Dragovich. He owns an organic farm and doesn’t want to sign a lease because he is aware that the impacts of fracking can reduce crop yields and crop quality, which could negatively impact his financial status as well, according to the The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

“My concern with fracking is the water,” Dragovich said in a video statement. “We couldn’t farm vegetables or raise our chickens without that water and for fracking to come and disturb that in any way is my biggest concern.”

This is the story of many farmers who have suffered in order to benefit big oil companies. So, why isn’t it surprising that the Biden administration isn’t against fracking? 

Hint: it has to do with the economy.

Fracking in the United States is important because it keeps our energy costs down.

According to Live Science, countries around the world all practice fracking, but it’s a hot topic in the U.S. because we have experienced a surplus of fracking in order to control oil costs and secure U.S. access to energy. 

Importing Oil and fossil fuels from other countries is inconvenient and costly. Most importantly, banning fracking would get rid of hundreds of thousands of jobs. 

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there were 145k people employed in the Oil & gas extraction Industry Group in 2018,” according to Data USA: Oil and Gas Extraction

 Around 26,000 of those jobs are in Pennsylvania, according to Food and Water Watch. Ohio also has a high number of jobs created by fracking. Both Pennsylvania and Ohio are swing states. Losing those votes could cost Biden the presidency.    

This is a difficult situation because we are currently living through an environmental crisis, and despite individual people slowly becoming environmentally conscious with metal straws and reusable shopping bags, large companies and corporations are the largest contributors to climate change. Adjusting individual behavior is not enough to change that.

However, the Food and Water Watch estimates is 630,000 jobs between 2016 and 2018 including in the private sectors, getting rid of those jobs could have devastating consequences. 

If Biden stood on a stage and claimed that he would put an end to fracking, many people in the U.S. would face the possibility of electing a president that would eliminate many jobs as our country is experiencing a devastating increase in unemployment and homelessness in the US as a result of COVID-19 and a refusal from our current administration to distribute funds to the American people during a pandemic. 

 Even if he brought up the fact that switching to clean energy is a growing field with the possibility of creating more jobs and that it also offers better paying jobs, according to Green Match, it wouldn’t change anything because many people would still lose their jobs.

It is important to note that the estimated job growth of oil and gas extraction was negative 1.2 percent in 2018.  

Creating a deal where a large number of people who work with oil companies would be guaranteed jobs in renewable energy seems like a possible solution, but would clean energy sectors agree to those terms? Coming up with a bipartisan agreement in order to make that transition also seems far-fetched when examining the current state of our country. 

So honestly, we are in quite a predicament. To turn a blind eye to fracking would result in what could be devastating consequences to the environment, health hazards to the people coming into contact with contaminated water and financial hardships for farmers near fracking sites. 

But to do the opposite would hurt our economy short term by disrupting access to our current ‘standard’ energy sources and the loss of over what could be an estimate of 600,000 or more jobs. 

Which one do you think is more important?



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