This has never happened before. The oil and gas business – the industry, its health and its impact on inflation and consumer prices – has always played some small role in presidential politics, at least since the oil shocks and embargoes of the 1970s. Most times in the past, the key issue surrounding oil and gas has related to the price of gasoline and what the candidates planned to do about it.
The issue of oil and gas has only arisen whenever gas prices were considered to be too high, never when consumers were benefitting from them being historically low, as they are today. Yet, suddenly this year, this key industry is playing a huge role in the 2020 presidential politics, and it is wholly unrelated to anything having to do with prices at the pump.
The issue in this election campaign is fracking, and whether or not it will remain legal should Democrat candidate Joe Biden become our next president. While this longstanding and well-regulated industrial process has hovered around the periphery of presidential politics since 2008, when the anti-development lobby decided to politicize it with a focused and highly-organized demonization campaign, it has suddenly become one of a handful of crucial issues that dominate the political landscape this year due to its job-creating and economic impacts in a single swing state: Pennsylvania.
How important is it? Early Monday morning, the Trump Campaign announced that President Donald Trump would be holding three separate campaign rallies that day. This is nothing unusual, given that the President has made a habit of holding multiple rallies each day during both of his presidential efforts. On Saturday alone he held rallies in the state of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin.
What is unusual about Monday, though, is that all three of the Trump rallies will be held in Pennsylvania, which has become perhaps the single most crucial swing state in the 2020 election. Biden is also paying special attention to the Keystone State, holding events there on Friday and Saturday, and sending both ex-President Barack Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders there to campaign on his behalf over the weekend.
Pennsylvania was certainly a key swing state in 2016, but its importance was equaled by Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and North Carolina as the race played out. This year, though, it has become increasingly difficult to see how either major candidate can prevail in the Electoral College without having Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes included in his total.
All of which explains why the issue of fracking and its continued legal deployment has become so elevated in the national discourse this year. Pennsylvania is, after all, the fulcrum for the development of the enormous Marcellus Shale/Utica Shale resource plays, the largest natural gas reserve in the Western Hemisphere.
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