This week felt like a month. On the menu today: After President Trump asked, “Would you close down the oil industry?” Biden responded, “I have a transition from the old industry, yes,” and now Biden’s campaign insists the candidate didn’t mean it. Biden also insisted that he “never said I oppose fracking,” which is contradicted by many of Biden’s past statements. It was that kind of a debate, wrapping up that kind of a week. Also, Operation Warp Speed’s chief adviser, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, offers a really encouraging timeline for vaccine distribution.
Joe Biden: ‘I Have a Transition from the Old [Oil] Industry, Yes’
After the catastrophic failure of the much-hyped “Battleground Texas” project by Democrats in 2014, Lone Star State Republicans could be forgiven for thinking their opposition would never get their act together.
The first tiny rattle in the engine came in 2016, when Donald Trump won the state by “only” nine percentage points. Because we’re talking about such a huge state, that amounts to more than 800,000 votes. But it was a somewhat smaller margin than preceding cycles. Mitt Romney had won the state by 1.2 million votes, and John McCain won by about 950,000 votes.
And then in 2018, Beto O’Rourke came respectably close in the Senate race against Ted Cruz, Republicans swept all the statewide offices again, but incumbents who usually won by wide margins, like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and state attorney general Ken Paxton, won by just a handful of percentage points. Democrats picked up two U.S. House seats, two state senate seats, and a dozen state House seats. Suddenly the Democrats’ dreams of winning the state were unlikely, but no longer laughable.
Heading into 2020, some Democrats started to believe that this was the year. A few polls here and there put Joe Biden ahead in Texas, and when Trump led, it was rarely by more than four or five points. Trump largely alienates suburbanites, and Texas has a lot of suburbs. Those allegedly boring college-educated minivan-driving soccer moms and white-collar dads used to be the bread and butter of the Republican Party. Trump had started to enjoy better polls, and the formula at FiveThirtyEight suggested Biden’s chances had never been better than one in three.
And then during last night’s debate, Joe Biden said this:
TRUMP: Would you close down the oil industry?
BIDEN: By the way, I have a transition from the old industry, yes.
TRUMP: Oh, that’s a big statement.
BIDEN: I will transition. It is a big statement.
TRUMP: That’s a big statement.
BIDEN: Because I would stop.
KRISTEN WELKER: Why would you do that?
BIDEN: Because the oil industry pollutes, significantly.
TRUMP: Oh, I see. Okay.
BIDEN: Here’s the deal-
TRUMP: That’s a big statement.
The Biden campaign is insisting Biden only meant he would transition away from federal subsidies to the oil industry, not away from the use of oil entirely. In their defense, after the above exchange, Biden did focus on “subsidies,” but only after saying, “it has to be replaced by renewable energy over time.”
BIDEN: Well, if you let me finish the statement, because it has to be replaced by renewable energy over time, over time, and I’d stopped giving to the oil industry, I’d stop giving them federal subsidies. You won’t get federal subsidies to the gas, oh, excuse me to solar and wind.
BIDEN: Why are we giving it to oil industry?
When Biden says “subsidies,” you may be picturing the U.S. government handing a check to oil companies. What he means are provisions in the tax code that allow companies to deduct a majority of the costs incurred from drilling new wells domestically, percentage depletion that works akin to depreciation in assets, tax credits for reducing carbon emissions, and a 2004 reduction in the corporate tax rate. When Biden says he’s going to “stop giving them federal subsidies,” what he means is that he wants to repeal previous changes to the tax code that were designed to increase domestic energy production.
Biden kept going, making comments that indicate he wants the oil industry to disappear in the next 15 years: “He takes everything out of context, but the point is, look, we have to move toward net zero emissions. The first place to do that by the year 2035 is in energy production, by 2050 totally.”
It will be quite difficult for any Democrat to win the state of Texas while calling for the entire U.S. oil industry to be phased out within a decade and a half. The pandemic has generated record layoffs, but the industry still employs 162,000 Texans in drilling and oil-field services, and those jobs pay 40 percent more than the median job.
The desire to phase out the oil industry is also not likely to be a winner in certain corners of Pennsylvania, where, as of 2019, nearly 18,000 people are employed in oil and petroleum production.
The related topic of fracking returned, and Biden insisted that not only does he not want to ban fracking, but that he never said he opposed fracking, which is a lie:
BIDEN: I never said I oppose fracking.
TRUMP: You said it on tape.
BIDEN: Show the tape, put it on your website.
TRUMP: I’ll put it on.
BIDEN: Put it on the website. The fact of the matter is he’s flat lying.
WELKER: Would you rule out about banning fracking?
BIDEN: I do rule out banning fracking because the answer we need, we need other industries to transition, to get to ultimately a complete zero emissions by 2025. What I will do with fracking over time is make sure that we can capture the emissions from the fracking, capture the emissions from gas. We can do that and we can do that by investing money in doing it, but it’s a transition to that.
In the July 2019 debate, Biden was asked about fracking by CNN’s Dana Bash:
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. [Biden makes a hand gesture, suggesting pushing something out or away.] We would make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, either — any fossil fuel.
In Biden’s final debate with Bernie Sanders in March, the former vice president said:
SANDERS: I’m talking about stopping fracking, as soon as we possibly can. I’m talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they are going to stop destroying this planet. No ifs, buts and maybes about it. I’m talking about speaking-
BIDEN: So am I.
And then later in that debate:
SANDERS: You cannot continue, as I understand Joe believes, to continue fracking, correct me if I’m wrong. What we need to do right now is bringing the world together, tell the fossil fuel industry that we are going to move aggressively to win solar, sustainable energies and energy efficiency.
TAPPER: Thank you, senator.
BIDEN: No more, no new fracking.
Between this and the various times Biden has told environmentalist protesters or supporters that he wants to “end fossil fuels,” “get rid of fossil fuels,” “phase out fossil fuel production,” and “ban fossil fuel exports,” there is a pattern that whenever Biden is challenged on being insufficiently committed to the green agenda, he insists he agrees with his critic. And then when called out for those comments, Biden insists he never said what he said.
Joe Biden’s true energy policy is that he agrees with whomever is in front of him, whether it’s a hardcore green activist or an oil-field worker who wants to keep making good wages to support his family. Biden wants it both ways because he wants both votes, and he is adamant that no decision he reaches will ever disappoint either side. If he is elected, energy policy in the Biden administration would be a jump ball, depending upon who gets appointed to those key positions of Secretary of Energy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the commissioners on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, etc.
Also note that Kamala Harris, who would take over if Biden could not complete his term, completely supports banning fracking, propose the “cooperative managed decline of fossil fuel production,” and backs the Green New Deal.
I do worry that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will get worse as the winter months arrive. People will spend more time indoors, increasing their close contact, and if infected, spread it to others in their household. People are going to have a tough time resisting getting together with relatives for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The good news is that your odds of surviving an infection are better than ever: “Two new peer-reviewed studies are showing a sharp drop in mortality among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drop is seen in all groups, including older patients and those with underlying conditions, suggesting that physicians are getting better at helping patients survive their illness.”
Meanwhile, Operation Warp Speed’s chief adviser, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, told ABC News this week that “It’s not a certainty, but the plan — and I feel pretty confident — should make it such that by June, everybody could have been immunized in the U.S.” What’s more, “Moderna and Pfizer are likely to be the first to apply for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, possibly as soon as November or December. If a vaccine is authorized before the end of the year, Slaoui said approximately 20 to 40 million doses of it will be stockpiled and ready for distribution for a limited population.”
First doses for the most vulnerable by the end of the year, and everybody’s safe by June. The end is in sight, people. Between the improved treatments and the pace of vaccine development, we’re almost through with this thing; we just need to be smart and careful for the next few months.
But last night, Biden went well beyond any measure of reasonable wariness and declared, “The expectation is we’ll have another 200,000 Americans dead between now and the end of the year.” As of last night, there were 70 days left in this year. That comes out to 2,857 deaths per day, every day, from now until January 1. Our daily rate of deaths has been around 1,000 — generally below it — since late August. If we lost 900 souls a day for the rest of the year, that would add up to 63,000 additional deaths.
The truth is bad enough, there’s no need for Biden to veer into the dire scaremongering. (Right now in the comments section, some regular readers are stunned that I, of all writers, could find someone else’s assessment to be fearmongering.)
ADDENDUM: My colleagues David Harsanyi and Kyle Smith have more on some really glaring lies by Biden — “not one person with private insurance would lose their health insurance under my plan, or did they under Obamacare,” “there is no evidence that when you raise the minimum wage, businesses go out of business” — and it overall reinforces what Democrats would prefer to not notice. Biden just blurts out the first thing that comes to mind, regardless of its accuracy, as much as Trump does, and either can’t remember or doesn’t care what the actual truth is.