PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The debate exchange between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden over fossil fuels seemed to be targeting voters in Pennsylvania.
So how important is this issue of fossil fuels to people in western Pennsylvania? When it comes to fossil fuels, both candidates say nothing really changes if they are elected.
But Biden says if we care about climate change, we need to encourage cleaner fuels in the decades ahead. That gives Pres. Trump, who calls climate change a hoax, an opening to attack Biden.
“That doesn’t play well in Pittsburgh, doesn’t play well in western Pennsylvania,” Eric Trump, the president’s son, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Friday.
Former vice presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, disagreed, saying most Americans want to meet the climate change crisis.
“America is the most innovative nation in the world. We can do it. I don’t think that’s a controversial proposition for people,” said Kaine.
Biden says he wants to transition from oil by 2050. So how important is oil in this state? It was discovered in Titusville, Crawford County, in 1859 by companies like Quaker State, who moved to Texas long ago.
“Texas is absolutely number one with regard to the production of oil, as opposed to Pennsylvania, which is much further down on the list,” energy attorney Joe Reinhart told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Friday.
Pennsylvania ranks 18th in oil production, although it still has some importance in northwestern Pennsylvania.
However, natural gas — with the nation’s largest gas company in Pittsburgh, EQT, and a petrochemical plant in Beaver County — is much more significant.
“We’re number two, closely behind Texas, in terms of production of natural gas, as opposed to much further behind as it relates to oil,” says Reinhart.
Biden is adamant that he will not ban fracking on private lands even as Trump insists that he will. As for coal, it’s on the decline because of market forces but still remains a key employer here.
“Pennsylvania is third nationally with respect to coal production, although the numbers are down across the board,” Reinhart said.
Reinhart, who works with energy companies, says renewables like solar and wind are part of the future, but new technologies may also allow fossil fuels to be used in a cleaner way.
“There are increasing methods to be able to reduce the amount of carbon associated with them and still developing them, and I think that’s an important aspect to the discussion that we don’t hear about,” he says.