President Joe Biden is risking alienating moderate and independent voters heading into Election Day with untimely recent pledges to shut down all coal plants and end oil drilling.
"No more drilling," Biden said when someone shouted at him during a rally for Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul in New York on Sunday. "There is no more drilling. I haven't formed any new drilling."
Biden blocked new oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters with an executive order after he took office in January 2021. Later, a federal judge ruled that the executive order was "beyond the authority" of the executive branch.
After the ruling, Biden's Interior Department "held a massive sale of 80 million acres offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, only to see another judge rescind that sale for failing to consider climate impacts," and it "remains tied up in court," according to Politifact. However, the Interior Department has since announced an onshore lease sale which would involve fracking. In the past, Biden had pledged to ban fracking on federal lands, which Politifact rates as a broken promise.
The national average for gasoline prices is $3.80 per gallon, according to AAA.
Democrats could pay a political price for Biden's drilling statement, especially with Pennsylvania voters. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Pennsylvania is among the top energy-producing states in the nation. Democrats are hoping to pick up a Senate seat in the race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Like many Democrats, Fetterman has previously opposed fracking. In his sole debate with Oz, however, Fetterman said, "I've always supported fracking," a claim which elicited widespread refutation. CNN, for example, pronounced the claim false, citing an interview with a "left-wing YouTube channel" during Fetterman's 2018 campaign for lieutenant governor, when he declared, "I don't support fracking, at all, and I never have."
Fetterman claimed in a recent interview that he now supports fracking.
"Any of the issues that I ever had with fracking is really around environmental regulations, and once those were passed and they were addressed ... you know, I support fracking," Fetterman said on the "The View."
"I absolutely support energy independence and making sure that we can never be held by a country like Russia and making sure that we produce as much American energy as possible, and I fully support fracking," he added.
In California on Friday, Biden informed voters that the U.S. would be replacing coal plants with wind and solar across the nation.
"We're going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar power," Biden said. "It's cheaper to generate electricity from wind and solar than it is from coal and oil."
Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin blasted Biden for his statement.
"Being cavalier about the loss of coal jobs for men and women in West Virginia and across the country who literally put their lives on the line to help build and power this country is offensive and disgusting," said Manchin. "The president owes these incredible workers an immediate and public apology."
Biden's statement about shutting down coal plants was reminiscent of then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's comment about putting coal miners out of business during the 2016 election. She later identified that moment as her biggest mistake during the campaign for president, which she lost to former President Donald Trump.
"I'm the only candidate who has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country because we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right, Tim?" she said, addressing Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in the audience. "And we're going to make it clear that we don't want to forget those people."
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released her own statement to add context to Biden's coal plants comment.
"He is determined to make sure that this transition helps all Americans in all parts of the country, with more jobs and better opportunities," she said. "It's a commitment he has advanced since day one. No one will be left behind."