The temporary halt of gas exports may impact Biden's prospects in Pennsylvania.

The temporary halt of gas exports may impact Biden’s prospects in Pennsylvania.

President Joe Biden has caused concern among his supporters in the key state of Pennsylvania by halting new exports of American natural gas.

The Democratic Party and labor unions in the state are concerned that the significant presence of the energy industry could make it vulnerable to attack by Republican front-runner, former President Donald Trump. Despite this, environmentalists view the decision to protect the climate as a courageous political move.

The outcome of Biden’s potential second term as president may depend on his ability to maintain support in a predominantly working-class state that he narrowly won in 2020. This state, which is now the second largest producer of natural gas after Texas, has prompted Biden to reexamine the environmental effects of natural gas transportation. While this decision may have strengthened his backing from young environmentalists, some are criticizing his approach.

Democratic Sens. Bob CaseyJohn Fetterman, both

They asserted that the interruption could harm their state..

“I strongly support energy, jobs, unions, and American security,” Senator Casey declared to POLITICO. “While we align with the president on many issues, we have differing views on this particular matter. I firmly believe that natural gas is essential at this time and plays a crucial role in our nation’s energy resources.”

Some members of the Republican party, even those who backed Biden over Trump, have criticized the administration’s decision to pause gas export permits, claiming it demonstrates Biden’s disconnect from the concerns of ordinary American workers.

“He calls himself Union Joe, but this decision to walk away from natural gas exports flies in the face of what he says about working class Americans,” said former Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican who represented central Pennsylvania and endorsed Biden in 2020. “He must not think their support is as valuable as the younger voters he is courting right now.”

In the last seven years, there has been a significant increase in natural gas exports from the United States due to the increase in fracking activity, leading to record-high production levels. Currently, companies are transporting liquefied natural gas via tankers, which accounts for more than 12 percent of the annual U.S. output, and this number is expected to double in the near future as newly permitted LNG plants become operational.

Several members of the Democratic party in Congress have conveyed

Fears have been expressed that the increasing amount of gas being used for exports will result in higher domestic energy costs.

The Republicans have tried to frame the pause as a restriction on new deliveries that will harm American businesses and hinder progress towards global climate goals.

The natural gas industry has caused a division in Pennsylvania by transforming a number of struggling regions in the western and northern areas of the state into prosperous towns. However, the use of drilling technology is prohibited in the Delaware River water basin on the northeastern border of the state due to concerns about the pollution of drinking water by wastewater, prompting strong resistance.

Democratic Reps. Chris Deluzio and Susan Wild

Democratic representatives from swing districts in the state, who are major targets for Republicans aiming to maintain control of the House, have informed POLITICO that they disagree with Biden’s choice as it may have a significant impact on the 72,000 individuals employed in the natural gas sector in their area.

Biden gained the necessary votes in Pennsylvania to secure his victory in the 2020 election, beating out Trump by a margin of 80,555 votes or 1.2 percent. In the previous election in 2016, Trump had won the state by 44,292 votes, thanks in part to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s statement about potentially putting coal miners and companies out of business. Despite clarifying her intentions to not leave behind blue-collar union workers around Pittsburgh, her words caused a decrease in Democratic support in those areas.

Jeff Nobers, the executive director of the Builders’ Guild of Western Pennsylvania, informed POLITICO that President Biden’s choice to temporarily halt the approval of gas exports may alienate the voters who played a significant role in electing him in 2020.

Before, Biden successfully convinced leaders of construction unions that heavily rely on fossil fuels in Pennsylvania that his proposed climate plan – the most ambitious for a presidential candidate – would not negatively impact them. However, the president had to clarify some of his statements following a debate with Trump in October 2020, during which he stated, “I would move away from the oil industry.”

Nobers, whose organization represents a collection of labor unions that include 60,000 employees and contractors in construction jobs related to natural gas, acknowledged that in the past, there was a retraction of statements made about banning natural gas. However, with the four-year track record in place now, the situation is different.

Nobers, a member of the Democratic party, chose Biden as his candidate in the 2020 election following his support for Trump in 2016. However, he is currently unsure about his decision for the 2024 election due to the president’s recent decision to limit permits for natural gas exports.

According to Nobers, there has been no effort to encourage or make easier the use of natural gas. It is still perceived as negative. He admits that the halt on export permits will not immediately impact the state’s production of natural gas, but Biden’s indecision is worrying him.

Nobers confirmed that he remains dedicated to voting for Casey in a pivotal Senate race that could impact control of the Senate. This decision came after he was pleased with Casey’s stance against Biden’s decision to pause LNG.

Casey, who is facing a challenging re-election race this year, stated to POLITICO that he plans to counter Republican criticism regarding Biden’s halt on gas exports by highlighting the energy investments made possible through the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure legislation in his state.

This involves providing financial resources for the development of emerging technologies like hydrogen and the establishment of a battery plant in a struggling region near Pittsburgh.

Casey stated that there is now an opportunity to present positive arguments to the same communities that have profited from the production of natural gas. He noted that there are already some benefits being seen that were not present during his 2018 campaign and the president’s 2020 campaign.

In an email, the Biden campaign mentioned that under his leadership, the production and job opportunities in the natural gas industry have increased, and the state’s unemployment rate has decreased by 50%.

Jack Doyle, the communications director for the Biden campaign in Pennsylvania, stated in an email that President Biden has fulfilled his promise of generating well-paying employment opportunities for Pennsylvanians. Despite the economic downturn caused by Trump, President Biden has successfully created numerous union jobs in the state, thanks to investments in infrastructure and clean energy. This achievement marks a significant contrast to the previous administration’s failure to deliver for the people of Pennsylvania.

Environmental activists in heavily Democratic urban areas stated that they perceive Biden’s freeze on export permits as a positive move for his campaign.

The pause would inspire young voters concerned about climate change in Philadelphia and its surrounding areas, according to David Masur, the executive director of PennEnvironment, an advocacy organization headquartered in the city.

Masur stated that the president should be commended for making a difficult decision on an issue that has been continuously avoided. He believes that this decision will further solidify the president’s stance as a strong advocate for climate change, appealing to young voters.

This could potentially improve Biden’s reputation among communities that have been impacted by environmental injustice, such as low-income and marginalized populations, who have historically been disproportionately affected by industrial pollution.

This pertains to Chester, a small city with a majority black population of 35,000 individuals situated on the western side of the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Wilmington. An energy corporation intends to construct a gas exporting project in this location, which may face delays as it undergoes review by the Biden administration.

The Democratic mayor of Chester, Stefan Roots, expressed his excitement and surprise at the president’s decision. He believes that this decision could potentially discourage investors and ultimately lead to the failure of the project.

“It’s a significant victory for us,” Roots stated. “We simply do not want another harmful industry in our city.” He emphasized that preventing pollution is of greater importance than the potential impact on employment, given that the city lacks a well-trained workforce and has the lowest ranked school system in the state.

However, Roots warned that this move may not appeal to many voters in Chester, as the area typically has low voter turnout.

Roots stated that putting a halt on this project in our city would not garner any support for the president. The majority of residents are not concerned about this matter. This city struggles with poverty and various issues affecting their daily lives.

“According to Christopher Borick, a political science professor and head of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, Biden’s temporary halt on gas exports could have a small impact. In Pennsylvania, where there is a close divide among voters, opinions on fracking and natural gas tend to align with political affiliations. The majority of gas-producing areas are located in rural, Republican-favoring regions.”

In a survey carried out by his organization in 2022, it was found that 67% of Republicans believed that extracting natural gas would result in greater advantages for the people of Pennsylvania, while only 28% of Democrats and 39% of independents shared the same viewpoint.

“This is really a classic example of how Democrats in Pennsylvania have to walk a fine line in terms of their positions on energy and particularly natural gas,” Borick said. “In a state that’s so tightly divided and every little thing matters, how do you maintain a coalition of unions with lots of blue collar workers who have a stake in the natural gas industry, while pleasing a large portion of your Democratic base that’s concerned about environmental matters and climate change?”

Although responsible for approximately 20% of U.S. natural gas production, the oil and gas sector makes up a relatively small portion of the state’s gross domestic product (less than 5%).

Kevin Book, the managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, a Washington D.C. based research group, stated that in states with less economic diversity like Wyoming, Alaska, or Louisiana, the dominance of the industry is not as pronounced.

Book commented that this economy has a wide range of industries. The Biden administration likely took into consideration that the younger demographic (under 30 years old) is a significant enough group to make up for potential declines in the labor and industrial sectors.

However, Republicans are sure that Biden has miscalculated and have strongly depicted his decision to halt gas approvals as a manifestation of the White House’s animosity towards traditional fuels, contradicting the nation’s global interests.

Former Representative Ryan Costello stated that in certain aspects, it holds a greater effectiveness compared to a fracking ban, when discussing baseless accusations made in 2020 about Biden potentially implementing a ban on the drilling method.

Costello, a moderate Republican who served as a representative for the Philadelphia suburbs until 2018, questioned the reasoning behind this decision. He believes it plays into a negative perception of Biden and ultimately benefits Russia and China, rather than the United States. Additionally, this could also harm Biden’s image in terms of cultural and economic policies, particularly for voters who already have doubts about him.