US Election 2020: Biden seeks to clarify remark on ending oil

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  • US election 2020

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US President Donald Trump picked up on a remark by his White House rival Joe Biden about the shutdown of the oil industry in the televised debate as the Democrat sought to clear the confusion.

Biden advisors said Friday that he was talking about ending fossil fuel subsidies, not the industry itself, when he spoke of a “transition” from oil.

Meanwhile, the Democrat attacked Trump’s handling of the coronavirus again, saying: “He has left America.”

Mr Biden has a steady lead in surveys.

However, in some states that could vote one way or another and ultimately decide the race on November 3rd, the leeway is less.

More than 53 million Americans have already voted in person or by mail in a record turnout, largely driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

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What did Biden say about oil?

In the final moments of Thursday night’s showdown in Nashville, Mr. Trump asked his challenger, “Would you shut down the oil industry?”

“I would switch from the oil industry, yes,” replied Biden, adding, “because the oil industry is seriously polluted”.

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Mr Biden said fossil fuels would need to be replaced with renewable energy over time as the US moves towards net zero emissions.

Democrats on the left of the party are excited about the idea that the US end its reliance on oil and gas as part of the fight against climate change.

But such policies could put off working class voters in politically critical states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, where many people in the industry are based.

What has the Biden campaign been saying since then?

The Democrat’s advisors released a statement following the debate that Mr Biden intended to end tax subsidies for fossil fuel companies rather than the entire industry.

After the TV duel, Mr Biden himself tried to clarify his remarks by saying that fossil fuels would not be eliminated until 2050.

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His Vice President, Kamala Harris, raised the controversy on Friday during the Georgia State campaign.

“Let’s really get that straight,” said the California senator. “Joe Biden is not going to ban fracking. He will take care of the oil subsidies.

“You know, the president likes to take everything out of context.

“But let’s be clear, Joe was talking about banning subsidies, but he’s not going to ban fracking in America.”

Fracking allows drilling companies to access difficult-to-access oil and gas resources.

In the United States, it has significantly boosted domestic oil production and lowered gas prices, but environmentalists wanting to focus on renewable energy sources have raised concerns.

President Trump’s allies immediately began running new attack ads that echoed Mr Biden’s earlier conflicting responses to whether he would stop fracking.

At the start of the campaign cycle, Mr Biden had suggested voters endorse fracking, but since becoming the Democratic White House candidate, he said his policy has been more limited – ending fracking leases on state land.

Trump finds new ammunition

In Florida, Donald Trump highlighted Joe Biden’s “big mistake” in his first election campaign since Thursday night’s presidential debate.

The Democratic candidate made it through the debate with almost no slip, the President laughed, but then said he wanted to get rid of the oil industry.

“I think he lost five or six states with it,” said Trump to cheers from the Pensacola crowd.

The states Trump believes are gaining the most ground are places like Texas and Pennsylvania, which have huge petrochemical interests, but he said Floridians should take care of that too.

“Do you like your gasoline for $ 2 and less for a gallon?” he said.

Although Mr Biden was quick to clarify his comments after the debate, the President appears determined to make this a campaign issue, much like Hillary Clinton’s comments on moving away from coal in 2016. In Pensacola, he also slapped Mr Biden on his previous comments to fracking and social security freezing, including video clips played for the crowd.

So far, Mr Trump has proven unable to get Mr Biden to pay a political price for possible controversial comments in the past. However, he found new ammunition on Thursday evening.

How did the oil industry react?

Fracking tycoon Harold Hamm, a Trump supporter and founder of Continental Resources Inc, told the Wall Street Journal that restricting oil and gas production would lead to higher gasoline prices and energy shortages.

“If Biden gets in, consumers lose,” said Hamm.

Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s leading lobby group in Washington, said in another interview that Mr Biden’s comments were disappointing.

However, he noted positively that Mr Biden had also signaled that he had no plans for a sudden change in the oil and gas shale fields.

What does Biden say about coronavirus?

The Democrat continued pounding on Friday about the pandemic, an issue that has left the president on the defensive for much of the White House race.

From his home in Wilmington, Delaware, Mr. Biden said, “We have been in this crisis for more than eight months, the President still has no plan. He has given up.

“He just wants us to go deaf.”

Mr Biden also promised that under his administration a future coronavirus vaccine would be “free for all”. Mr Trump made the same promise.

When Mr Trump received positive feedback on Thursday for his more cautious debate, Mr Biden tweeted, “A slight change in the president’s tone for one night doesn’t cover up the lies he was telling.

“It doesn’t change the fact that over 220,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 on his watch.”

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