Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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.

Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez @ SXSW in2019, nrkbeta/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

Trouble Follows AOC Home From Colorado Trip

On a recent out-of-district trip, freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continued to transfix audiences as she continued to drum up support for her controversial Green New Deal. Unfortunately for crowds smitten with the New York Rep, the aftermath of AOC’s trip has become mired in potential scandal.

Why Was She in Colorado?

At every moment in her trip, the New York rep continued her rampage against the oil and gas industry, taking time out from legislating on behalf of her constituents to complete a series of publicity stops in and around Boulder, Colorado. She visited families who claim their lives were negatively impacted by fracking. She gave speeches touting the dangers of the big, corrupt oil industry. She took immense pleasure invoking the words of FDR

And audiences ate it up.

Too Bad About Those Facts, Though

Throughout, AOC stayed active on social media, tweeting out gems like this one: 

Ocasio-Cortez claimed to see poison gas through a special forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera. As it happens, almost everything about that assertion was wrong. The site being filmed wasn’t actually fracking at all. What’s more, that specialized FLIR camera wasn’t picking up toxic gases, it was picking up heat signatures from mud bubbling up from below the earth. 

From there, AOC tweeted out pictures of a woman’s benzene-heavy blood test while claiming the diagnosis was a result fo nearby fracking operations. In recent years, several anti-fracking interests have tried equating fracking with soaring benzene levels, only to find their theories debunked by people with, you know, medical degrees. 

Not only are increased benzene levels a result of just your last few hours exposure, but heightened benzene levels can come from a ton of different places. You can get excess benzene levels from driving your car into your garage.

Add a Splash of Law-Breaking

In addition to her fact-free agenda, AOC may have also violated campaign law when she used campaign funds to bring an employee’s toddler along with her. As it stands, campaign laws do allow for covering childcare expenses, but only for the candidate or their family. The rules don’t apply to employees of the candidate. 

As a result, AOC is now under scrutiny for a possible violation of the law.

Campaigning on the Edge

As the 2020 election season begins to pick up, AOC is going to be a hot commodity when it comes to garnering Democratic votes. In what will prove a particularly contentious election cycle, Ocasio-Cortez has chosen inflammatory tactics and misleading tactics to try and force her agenda through.

Even though her fans seem to care less for the truth and more for another Instagram post, it will remain important to stay vigilant when this freshman rep begins talking about the “facts.”