The Democratic presidential field is down to two old, white males, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Though they are said to represent two polar-opposite wings of the party, on one issue, they are in complete agreement. They both have solemnly pledged to destroy millions of blue-collar jobs across Middle America's oil patch.
Each has pledged to stop oil and gas development dead in its tracks. This anti-shale and gas movement has the zeal of a religious crusade. If that green agenda comes to pass, it will reverse the economic renaissance in states such as New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. These states have all become energy powerhouses thanks to new technologies in fracking and horizontal drilling.
It would be a stunningly stupid thing to stop these practices, because they come at the very moment that America has arrived at energy independence. We have now become a net exporter of natural gas. This shale revolution has neutered the OPEC nations that once had a blade at our necks, as well as other hostile countries such as Russia and Iran. It is no exaggeration to say that the people who would benefit most from Biden and Sanders' foolishness would be Vladimir Putin and the Arab oil sheiks.
One can imagine a hostile nation or terrorists trying to paralyze our economy by bombing our oil fields to shut down our energy production. But Biden and Sanders want our country to do this to itself.
In a recent debate, Biden said he supports stopping fossil fuel development in America, even though "thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands" of people would lose their jobs. Sanders says we have to end all fossil fuel development and "end fracking" immediately because of climate change.
The biggest losers would be blue-collar workers in the Midwest, the mountain states and the Southwest. Nationwide, the direct job losses would reach 1.5 million, and a total of 8 million to 10 million workers would be laid off in ancillary industries. Drillers, engineers, construction workers, truck drivers and welders would get pink slips, not paychecks. By the way, in many oil states, such as Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, truck drivers can easily earn more than $100,000 a year. These are high-paying jobs. I thought that is what Sanders and Biden said they wanted.
It would kill a nearly $1 trillion industry and devastate small towns across the country. The devastation of the coal industry — with towns in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming nearly eviscerated and residents now in unemployment lines or addicted to methamphetamine — would be the fate of the oil and gas towns on a scale 10 times larger. The war against natural gas is particularly nonsensical because natural gas reduces carbon emissions.
Such is the "collateral damage" of the left's radical climate change agenda. The left is willing to put 300,000 Pennsylvanians and nearly 200,000 Ohioans in unemployment lines. One has to wonder if the professors, CEOs and social activists would be all-in on the green agenda if it were their jobs that would be wiped out. Too often, political activists measure their commitment to the environment by how many other people they are willing to let lose their jobs. In 2016, Hillary Clinton pledged to put coal miners out of business, and the coal states blitzed her. Will the oil and gas states respond the same way?
Climate change radicalism pits prosperity for the middle class against the elite and the millennial snowflakes who are protected from the real effects of the climate change hysteria. This movement exposes the fault line of the modern Democratic Party: Does it care more about the green activists than the blue-collar (often unionized) workers it says it stands behind? Right now, the greens are winning. One can only hope that the workers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas are paying very close attention. Because Sanders and Biden are telling them: Drop dead!
Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with FreedomWorks. He is the co-author of "Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive the American Economy."