Pennsylvania energy workers feature heavily in Trump, Biden bid for votes

Pennsylvania energy workers feature heavily in Trump, Biden bid for votes

In the final days before the 2020 presidential election, President Trump and 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden have ramped up pleas for voters in the key swing state of Pennsylvania, where fracking and energy jobs have been in focus.

Trump has repeatedly gone after the former vice president for an inconsistent message on fracking, claiming Biden would end the practice and eliminate many U.S. jobs along with it. This line of attack was amplified after the last presidential debate.

Biden, however, has clarified he would not prohibit fracking – though his climate plan does call for a gradual transition away from a reliance on the oil and gas industries over the next few decades.

Biden has separated himself from the more progressive set of the Democratic Party, which has called for a fracking ban as part of a shift toward greener options.

Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., came out in favor of a fracking ban during her campaign for the presidency.

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Harris is now focused on helping get the message out about Biden’s promise not to ban fracking, with several key swing states on the line.

Pennsylvania is the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer – and its energy sector is growing. The Keystone State is home to one of the largest shale formations in the U.S., the Marcellus Shale formation, which is found beneath about 60% of the state’s total landmass.

Pennsylvania had just over 269,000 energy jobs as of 2019, accounting for 4.5% of the statewide labor force, according to data from the Pennsylvania Energy Department.

But job growth in the energy sector has outpaced the state’s overall labor market.

Between 2018 and 2019 alone, traditional energy employment grew by 5.2 percent, but total jobs grew by less than 1 percent.

Fuels accounted for nearly 20% of Pennsylvania’s energy labor force as of last year.

But natural gas jobs fell by 7.4% from 2017 to 2019, to about 23,738 positions.

It’s not just employment opportunities that help the state’s economy, though, Republican Rep. Scott Perry, who represents a district where hydraulic fracturing does not occur, told Fox News.

“We benefit enormously from the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania,” Perry said.

Producers pay royalties based on the proceeds from the sale of their oil and gas products, which state law requires is equal to at least 12.5%.

Furthermore, local production has helped keep utility costs low for residents, according to Perry.

“Doing the things that the Biden-Harris team want to do regarding the oil and gas industry not only affects the jobs associated with that, which are in the hundreds of thousands in Pennsylvania, but completely affects every single person that pays a utility bill in Pennsylvania and I think they’re very acutely aware of that,” he said.

Still, the state’s energy department expects overall production to slow as supply has outpaced consumption.

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Blue-collar white workers in Pennsylvania helped narrowly lift Trump to victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, though it is unknown whether the president has upheld the same level of support within this cohort – or whether Biden may siphon away supporters with a working class appeal of his own.

The president has asked government agencies to perform an evaluation of how fracking impacts the U.S. economy and what would happen if it were banned, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

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