In Race for House Minority Leadership, Fracking Continues to Impact Elections

Just a few days ago, the New York Post published an article, “Can this man save the democrats?” which outlines Congressman Tim Ryan’s (D-Ohio) run against U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pellosi (D-Calif.) to take over the leadership of the House Democrats and change the party’s trajectory.  Another article called the challenge “Tim Ryan’s Rust Belt Reboot”.

While Ryan lost his bid today, his run was – at least in part – a symbolic stand against a Democratic platform that decided last year to remove the term “all of the above” from its energy platform. This last-ditch effort to “save the democrats” might have a lot to do with what’s happening within the unions, where the building trades are hungry for jobs and are staunch supporters of oil and gas development (while taking on other unions they call “bottom-feeding organizations” supporting the “Keep-It-In-The-Ground” campaign).

Ryan took a bold stand in support of fracking in 2011, arguing shale gas development is a great way to combat climate change. As he said,

“ … There is great opportunity now because the number 1 threat to our world is global warming. Having clean, accessible natural gas can transform our economy and reduce our dependency on foreign oil, which we are doing now. It’s a clean fuel. It’s jobs here in the United States and it reduces our dependency on foreign oil, so we an wind these wars down and get out of Afghanistan and get out of Iraq, and use that money to invest back into the United States.”

And he was absolutely right. Since 2011, carbon emissions are the lowest they have been since 1992—thanks to fracking.

As Utica shale development started, Congressman Ryan penned a guest blog for EID entitled “Energy + Manufacturing = JOBS. At a speaking engagement last year, Ryan also explained how the oil and natural gas industry is starting to bring the region back to life:

“Growing up and watching the factories close and watching people lose their jobs, and watching it ripple throughout the community… the whole thing that we have seen in Northeast Ohio for the last 20-30 years, we are still trying to recover from some of that…so when we all started to learn about the shale play, which was not necessarily in our lexicon a few years back, and started to really understand what was happening with Utica and Marcellus Shale…I was so excited about what the possibilities were, because we haven’t seen this in so long… We got a break, we got an opportunity. We have a competitive advantage. We should be aggressively pursuing global manufacturing to come here. We’ve got the location, we’ve got the workforce, and we got our friends in the building trades who are ready-set-go. We have the culture of manufacturing, we got the location, two-thirds of North America is within 500 miles of this area, and we have the Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 suppliers all the way down the lines. We have the research and development. We have got the job training… what direction do you want to go?  Things are happening around here.” (emphasis added)

As the national media has covered this debate over the past few weeks they have missed the fact that in Youngstown, we are making steel again, and it’s entirely because of fracking. Elected officials from both parties know this to be true and as a result are saying things like “we’re not standing on natural resources, we’re standing on jobs.” The same is true to union households, who played a major factor on Election Day.

Policies that would stop fracking and the infrastructure required to move the product to market has a direct impact to their jobs. The union vote was significant, as Fox News reported,

“Union households — long a stronghold of Democratic support — went for Clinton by eight points. That’s a 10-point drop from Obama’s total last time, and the lowest union support for a Democrat in the past 20 years.”

In Ohio, the story was even more compelling as Fox News reported,

“(Trump) He won a majority of union members — 52 percent — a dramatic improvement over the 37 percent Romney took home in 2012.”

These realities likely had something to do with Congressman Ryan’s run to challenge the democrat leadership. In a recent interview with The New Republic, Ryan showed that he was doubling down on his stance to re-boot the America’s economy through natural gas development,

“Asked for specifics on the economic message he’d like to see, Ryan points back to his own district and other former industrial strongholds. Ohioans have had to get creative about new industries, he says, ticking off the successful business incubators in Youngstown, the new natural gas plants replacing coal-fire energy, and the additive and 3D manufacturing in cities like Cleveland and Dayton. Everywhere there are these burgeoning little fresh new parts of the economy, and as Democrats, we should be the ones throwing gasoline on this stuff,” Ryan said. “You need these public-private partnerships with strategic government intervention with layering capital for start-up businesses.”

In a statement today after he lost his bid, he continued to push the party to toward his ideologies,

“ … It is clear as we learn more about the outcome of our elections that we’re ignoring crucial voices that deserve to be heard. The people I represent in Northeast Ohio and the tens of millions of workers across our country are proud to be called blue collar. Democrats must adopt a progressive economic message that focuses on large, direct infrastructure investments, affordable health care, portable pensions, and public-private investments that promote advanced manufacturing. Hopelessness is a product of economic and social adversity. That is why Democrats must always be the party of aspiration and inclusion.” (emphasis added)

Inclusion, up until two months ago, meant the Democrat National Committee had an “all of the above” energy platform. Today, that no longer exists because “Keep-It-In-the-Ground” anti-fracking activists and democratic platform committee member Bill McKibben successfully lobbied the party to reject fossils fuels entirely from their energy platform. McKibben stated in July,

“No more all of the above. No more bridge to the future. Sun and wind and are now above natural gas”.

McKibben also said on the campaign trail in Ohio that his fringe anti-fossil fuel agenda “was not completely popular” with Democrats.  It’s obvious that his agenda is “not completely popular” with the majority of Ohio voters either. In fact, it’s been flat out rejected.

So will the Democrat party move farther toward their “some of the above” energy platform, rejecting union jobs along the way? Time will tell.

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