Energy Policy on the Ballot Democratic Senators Face Backlash Amid Rising Costs

Energy Policy on the Ballot: Democratic Senators Face Backlash Amid Rising Costs

This November, energy is on the ballot, and Democratic leaders who have supported President Biden’s anti-fossil-fuel stance are facing consequences.

With utilities, consumer goods, and food costs 30% higher under Biden, owing in part to rising gas prices, Democratic senators such as Montana’s Jon Tester and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown—both of whom represent Republican-majority states—are understandably concerned.

Bob Casey, Pennsylvania’s three-term Democratic senator, stands out among them all.

After 18 years in the Senate, Casey’s legislative record has been surprisingly disappointing. When pressed, few could name a specific piece of legislation or a floor address in which he excelled.

And he is now eclipsed by his fellow Democrat, junior Senator John Fetterman. The hoodie-wearing rookie has acquired unlikely friends on the right for his willingness to confront his party’s antisemites, and he has achieved a broad appeal that Casey never could.

Consider their home state of Pennsylvania, which is one of the largest producers of natural gas by fracking. During his 2022 campaign, Fetterman’s shifting opinions on fracking were criticized. He ultimately supported it. Give credit where it’s due.

Fetterman may have supported Bernie Sanders in 2016, but his Keystone State is home to Titusville, the location of the first commercial oil well dug by John D. Rockefeller in 1895, which played an important part in our country’s emergence as a global superpower.

Today, the state’s oil and gas business employs over half a million of Fetterman’s constituents and will contribute $75 billion to the economy in 2021. Fetterman and the White House disagreed in February about the prohibition on liquefied natural gas exports.

Casey felt forced to join him on this.

However, Casey’s opposition was more the exception than the rule. It also highlights the difficulty. Since taking office, Biden has used every instrument in his regulatory toolkit to fulfill his 2020 campaign pledge to “end fossil fuel.”

On day one, he canceled the Keystone XL pipeline.

He prohibited new oil and gas leases on public lands and seas. Last week, Biden ordered oil and gas corporations to pay more for drilling on existing federal lands.

However, Senate Democrats’ silence has been deafening, especially that of Casey, Brown, and Tester, all of whom represent fossil-fuel-rich state and energy workers.

Not only did they all approve the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, hailed by the White House as the “largest climate investment in history,” but they also stood by while Biden’s regulatory attack attempted to kill the business.

Casey has even dubbed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal as “worthy of review.” Faced with a 39% approval rating and a strong challenge from George W. Bush staffer David McCormick, Casey is willing to embrace some of Fetterman’s veiled magic.

Nonetheless, his voting record remains a millstone – 98% of the time, he allied with another (alleged) Pennsylvanian, Joseph Biden. Biden is anticipated to spend a lot of time in his former home state. This week, he began a three-day tour of Scranton, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.

Biden’s presence in the state puts Casey in a difficult position: the senator cannot campaign with Biden outside of Democratic strongholds, where the president may be unpopular due to his fossil-fuel past.

However, Casey must campaign in areas where McCormick is gaining support from a disillusioned electorate. Ironically, the senator’s 2006 triumph over then-Sen. Rick Santorum (full disclosure: I worked on the Santorum campaign) required comparing the incumbent to another unpopular president, then-President George W. Bush.

Casey was fond of stating, “When two politicians agree 98% of the time, one isn’t needed.” Given his near-universal support for Biden, that technique could backfire. Yes, energy is on the ballot, and energy workers in Pennsylvania, Montana, and Ohio may become the new sought demographic, similar to “soccer moms.”

If candidates focused on the problems that these voters care about, not only would they win elections, but the entire country, and indeed, the world, would benefit.

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