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VERIFY: Did Joe Biden say he would ban fracking?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, took center stage during the Vice Presidential debate. Where does Joe Biden stand on fracking?

WASHINGTON — Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, the Verify team has worked to answer questions from viewers on claims from both Democratic and Republican nominees. 

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, took center stage during the Vice Presidential debate. 

Vice President Mike Pence claimed that under a Biden administration, Joe Biden has said he wants to ban fracking.

"The American people can go look at the record, I know Joe Biden says otherwise now, as you do, but the both of you repeatedly committed to abolishing fossil fuel and banning the fracking," Pence said addressing Senator Kamala Harris.

Our Verify team fact-checked that claim as false on Wednesday night, referencing a Verify story we published Wednesday morning. That claim specifically acknowledged a timeframe, that over the last five months, Biden has not publicly flip-flopped on fracking.

That claim is true, since April 2020, Biden has not changed his stance on fracking during interviews.

RELATED: VERIFY: No, Joe Biden has not flip-flopped on fracking in the last 5 months

After rating Vice President's claim as 'false,' our team received four emails saying our Verify fact-check didn't tell the whole story.

"You just verified that Biden’s public comments have not flipped. Please correct your article to accurately reflect what was said in July 2019 by Biden," one viewer wrote.

"I'd just like you to dig a little further on the Biden fracking flip flop issue and have a look at this. This seems like a fracking flip flop to me," another person said.

Fracking, and discussion about where the Biden ticket stands on the topic, has become a point of contention online.

To help add more context and information, our Verify team is digging further: since he announced his candidacy, has Joe Biden said he wants to end fracking?

Our Verify team looked at Biden's official position on the campaign website, transcripts from 11 Democratic Party presidential debates, the first presidential debate and official campaign events and major news network interviews since the democratic nominee announced his run for president on April 25, 2019.

RELATED: VERIFY: Millions of people are not directly employed by the oil and gas industry

Joe Biden's official position

Under Biden's climate plan he calls for "ensuring the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050." Part of that plan would include "banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters." 

Democratic party debates and first presidential debate

During the second night of the first democratic debate, Rachel Maddow asked Joe Biden, "are there significant ways you can cut carbon emissions if you have to do it with no support from Congress?"

Biden spoke about working with local leaders to build 500,000 recharging stations throughout the U.S. so we can "go to a fully electric vehicle future by the year 2030." (Biden brought up recharging stations during the sixth, seventh, ninth, and eleventh debate too though the number has fluctuated between 500,000 and 550,000)

He also mentioned rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and investing in technology.

"I would make sure that we invested $400 million dollars in new science and technology to be the exporter, not only of the green economy but economy that can create millions of jobs," Biden said on June 27, 2019.

During the second Democratic debate on July 31, Dana Bash asked the former vice president "would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?"

"No, we would, we would work it out," Biden responded. "We would make sure it's eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, either -- any fossil fuel." 

Our Verify researchers contacted the Joe Biden campaign, about this specific comment. While they did not address it specifically, a spokesperson referred us to a press release from Oct. 8, 2020, which starts by saying, "Joe Biden has been clear: he will not ban fracking."

Credit: Biden for President
This is the first page of a press release from Joe Biden's campaign published October 8, 2020. The release says that Joe Biden will not end fracking, the Biden Administration will "only end new gas permitting on public lands."

During the fifth Democratic debate on Nov. 20, 2019, Tom Steyer said that climate was his "number one priority," and said "Vice President Biden won't say it."

Biden responded by saying, "I think it is the existential threat to humanity."

During the seventh debate in Iowa on January 14, 2020, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders addressed a question about fracking. Biden then addressed the question.

"I’ve been fighting this for a long time," he said. "I headed up the Recovery Act, which put more money into moving away from fossil fuels to solar and wind energy than ever has occurred in the history of America."

During the ninth debate, Vanessa Hauc asked Biden about how he would hold oil and gas executives "that are responsible for the destruction of our planet" accountable.

"What would I do with them?" Biden responded. "I would make sure they, number one, stop. Number two, if you demonstrate that they in fact have done things already that are bad and they’ve been lying, they should be able to be sued."

On March 15, during the eleventh and final democratic debate, Joe Biden said "no more subsidies for [the] fossil fuel industry. No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period."

Later Bernie Sanders said, "I'm talking about stopping fracking, as soon as we possibly can. I’m talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they are going to stop destroying this planet. No ifs, buts and maybes about it...."

Joe Biden responded: "So am I."

Bernie shot back with, "Well, I'm not sure your proposal does that..." 

To which Biden responded, "My plan takes on the fossil fuel industry and it unites the world." A few minutes later he said, "No more, no new fracking."

Our Verify researchers contacted the Joe Biden campaign, about this specific comment, too. While they did not address it specifically, a spokesperson referred the Verify team to a press release which clarifies the matter.

"Biden’s climate change plan only calls for banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters," the Biden campaign wrote in a press release. "That allows for existing fracking permits to continue on federal lands and does nothing to prohibit fracking on private land. Given that most fracking occurs on private or state-owned land, Biden’s policy is hardly a ban on fracking."

Moderator Chris Wallace summarized Biden's stance during the first presidential debate saying "Vice President Biden....you talk about new limits, not abolishing, but new limits on fracking..." 

Official campaign events 

Some people online are sharing a 15-second video of an exchange where Joe Biden said he wanted to end fossil fuels.

The video, which the VERIFY team has not been able to independently confirm, is reported as an event on Sept. 6, 2019 in New Castle, New Hampshire where he told an activist, " I want you to look at my eyes. I guarantee you, I guarantee you we’re going to end fossil fuel..."'

Our Verify researchers could not find a full-length raw video from the event.

During a speech in Pittsburgh on Aug. 31, 2020, Biden said, "I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again. I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me."

The Oct. 8 press release goes into greater detail: "No matter how many times President Trump and Vice President Pence lie about Biden’s record, here are the facts: the Biden Administration will only end new gas permitting on public lands. The vast majority of fracking (about 90%) is done on private lands today. In fact, in Pennsylvania, just 0.3% of fracking occurs on federal public lands."

Bottom Line

Vice President Joe Biden's official stance is that he opposes new permits for oil and gas on federal land and water.

Our Verify team found few instances where Biden's comments left room for interpretation, and those few instances are the ones that have been circulating on social media.

However, the Democratic nominee and his team have publicly said, he will not ban fracking. 



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