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Does a U.S. President Have the Power to Ban Fracking?

As 2019 winds down, Democratic presidential hopefuls are beginning to fall away in droves, leaving only the true contenders in the field. As more and more candidates fall by the wayside, those that remain seem united on only two major topics. The first is their shared dislike for the current administration. The second is their outright loathing for hydraulic fracturing.

Most candidates have been forthright in their aim to stamp out fracking in the United States. One of the most popular presidential candidates, Elizabeth Warren, stated repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms, her distaste for America’s energy sector. On Twitter, the Democrat pledged, “On my first day as president, I will sign an executive order that puts a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases for drilling offshore and on public lands. And I will ban fracking—everywhere.”

Warren’s call for a fracking ban was an echo of a statement made previously by another frontrunner, Bernie Sanders. Of the three primary Democratic frontrunners, only Joe Biden has yet to speak out directly against fracking, which raises the question: could a US president really eradicate the oil and gas industry with a stroke of their pen?

No. Not Even a Little Bit.

The promise to sweep into office and extinguish fracking in the name of the environment is one that plays well among liberal crowds, but it’s simply not feasible. The President of the United States isn’t an emperor. He’s bound by the rule of law from making unilateral decisions that could derail the entire economy. It would take nothing short of an act of Congress to enact an outright fracking ban.

That said, there are actions a United States president could take to make fracking or oil exploration of any kind extremely difficult. As Christopher Guith, senior VP of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, explained to CNN, “[A] motivated President could embark on a regulatory agenda that would make fracking economically impossible.”

The possibility that a new president could make things more difficult for oil and gas has industry professionals worried about the next four years.

A Ban Isn’t Really on the Table

A fracking ban makes for a good sound bite, but it’s a hollow gesture at best. Not only would a ban on fracking be illegal, but it would also be a disaster. Even the Democrats know that. The only way to truly end fracking without crippling the United States’ economy would be a slow hard-fought campaign of increased regulations. Past administrations have tried the same tactic only to fail miserably when tested in a legal setting.

That’s not great news for an oil and gas sector enjoying international dominance. Still, it does offer the industry a sliver of hope, even in the face of a Democratic president.

DAVID HOLT/Wikimedia Commons

United Kingdom Set to Abandon Fracking

If recent rumors are to be believed, a years-long campaign to establish fracking in the United Kingdom will soon come to a grinding halt. Minor tremors at a long-embattled Lancashire drilling site may have put the final nail in the UK fracking coffin. Relentless protests and unceasing anti-fracking sentiment in the nation’s media have turned the tide of public opinion against fracking in the United Kingdom.

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Iceberg in the Arctic, AWeith/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

The Arctic 8 and the New Cold War

For most of recorded history, the Arctic has been classified as no man’s land, a sprawling, icy desert inhabited only by creatures built explicitly for the task. In recent decades, however, cutting edge technology and drastic updates in transportation have turned the Arctic from an alien landscape into a potentially viable source of ever-important oil and gas. 

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