by David Snow
January 31, 2020

National Fracking Ban Unlikely, say Energy Experts

A debate between Democratic and GOP presidential nominees about a ban on fracking likely won’t emerge as an important election issue, according to energy experts from Eurasia Group and KPMG who spoke at the recent Privcap Energy Game Change event in Houston.

The idea for a national ban on fracking is unworkable because so much critical regulatory framework exists at the state level, said Robert Johnston, a managing director at Eurasia Group. In addition, fracking is generally popular in electoral swing states, said KPMG’s Regina Mayor, global sector head for natural resources.

“The fracking ban is a really tough position for Democrats given that they need to win Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado,” agreed Johnston. “We’ve already seen state level initiatives there that have been overwhelmingly pro-fracking. So if Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders win the nomination, I think you’d have to pivot because it’s just not a tenable position.”

“They could say, ‘We’re going to study it and we’re going to ban it on federal lands,’” added Johnston.

KPMG’s Regina Mayor (middle) Eurasian Group’s Robert Johnston (R) and moderator David Snow of Privcap

Many environmental activists have called for a ban on fracking, saying it damages the environment and furthers the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

“Every single regulatory and policy decision of consequence ends up in the courts, in the state legislatures,” said Johnston. “Obama tried to kill coal. Trump tried to save it. Neither succeeded, right? Obama tried to kill Keystone XL. Trump tried to save it. Neither succeeded.”

Furthermore, Mayor stressed, federal policy changes do not always have the impact anticipated. “It really didn’t matter that Trump pulled us out of the Paris Accord,” said Mayor. “Because the US industry is still behaving as though we are in [the Accord].”