Dec 20, 2019

How a Democratic president might be able to take action on fracking

Ben Geman, author of Generate

Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

One of the higher-profile energy topics in the primary fight has been a push by several Democrats to ban or restrict fracking, although it didn't surface at the primary debates Thursday night.

Driving the news: A new note from the data analytics firm Kayrros sizes up what a president might actually be able to do — thwart fracking on federal lands. They account for a relatively small but hardly trivial share of U.S. oil and gas production.

What they found: "Federal-land fracking does not represent an irreplaceable share of U.S. [oil] production, neither is it a footnote — thanks in part to the fact that wells on Federal leases have been punching above their weight," they note.

How it works: Their analysis shows that the New Mexico side of a key section of the booming Permian basin (which is largely in Texas) is the epicenter of fracked oil wells on federal lands.

  • Wells drilled on the New Mexico side of the Delaware basin, a subsection of the larger Permian, beginning 2018 account for 17% of U.S. production growth since then.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday released a study on the effect of some candidates' calls to ban fracking on all U.S. lands.

  • It's a goal of Sanders and Warren that would require congressional action that's very unlikely to occur.

What they're saying: The analysis, which looks at oil and natural gas production, argues it would be "catastrophic" for the economy, cost millions of jobs (4 million in 2021 alone); and send heating cost and pump prices skyward.

Go deeper: Warren's 2020 ascent sends ripples through oil industry

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Barr claims "no correlation" between removing protesters and Trump's church photo op

Attorney General Bill Barr said at a press conference Thursday that there was "no correlation" between his decision to order police to forcibly remove protesters from Lafayette Park and President Trump's subsequent visit to St. John's Episcopal Church earlier this week.

Driving the news: Barr was asked to respond to comments from Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said Tuesday that he "did not know a photo op was happening" and that he does everything he can to "try and stay out of situations that may appear political."

Updates: Cities move to end curfews for George Floyd protests

Text reading "Demilitarize the police" is projected on an army vehicle during a protest over the death of George Floyd in Washington, D.C.. early on Thursday. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Several cities are ending curfews after the protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people led to fewer arrests and less violence Wednesday night.

The latest: Los Angeles and Washington D.C. are the latest to end nightly curfews. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tweeted Wednesday night that "peaceful protests can continue without a curfew, while San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted that the city's curfew would end at 5 a.m. Thursday.

Murkowski calls Mattis' Trump criticism "true and honest and necessary and overdue"

Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Thursday that she agreed with former Defense Secretary James Mattis' criticism of President Trump, calling it "true and honest and necessary and overdue."

Why it matters: Murkowski, who has signaled her discomfort with the president in the past, also said that she's "struggling" with her support for him in November — a rare full-on rebuke of Trump from a Senate Republican.