FIRST ON FOX: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s presidential campaign walked back his promise to ban hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, as part of his plan to combat plastic pollution.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, the campaign said Kennedy, if elected president, would implement a “phase out” of fracking which would be achieved by ending taxpayer-funded subsidies for the industry and allowing the free market to work. The statement appears to soften Kennedy’s social media post last week, when he vowed to “ban” fracking to “fix the plastics pollution crisis.”
“Mr. Kennedy recognizes that an immediate and total ban on fracking would devastate the US economy, and is therefore unrealistic,” the campaign told Fox News Digital. “He favors a gradual phase-out of the practice, starting with the removal of subsidies and a moratorium on new exploration.”
“He believes that fracking, at least in most locations, will no longer be viable when the practice does not receive direct or indirect subsidies, and instead is exposed to the free market,” the statement continued. “Existing productive oil and gas fields will only be phased out as suitable alternatives are available, so that people and the economy can transition smoothly to new technologies.”
Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. speaks at The Centre Theater on June 5 in Philadelphia. (Lisa Lake/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
The campaign added that Kennedy, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has worked on fracking issues for years. It noted that Kennedy served in 2014 on a New York fracking committee assembled by former Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo which concluded fracking was too expensive to compete in a free market without subsidies.
Further, Kennedy has led litigation against fracking in Pennsylvania and, according to his campaign, has been witness to the “devastation fracking waste has caused to families and communities.”
The walk-back, meanwhile, comes after Kennedy was heavily criticized over the weekend for his promise to ban fracking.
“I told all of you that this guy is anti-freedom,” energy expert Alex Epstein said in response to Kennedy’s post. “Banning fracking would immediately plunge the US into a depression. And [Kennedy] would do it to ‘solve’ an amorphous ‘plastics crisis.'”
“I know some conservatives who like RFK Jr but this is 100 percent disqualifying,” added Isaac Orr, a policy fellow focusing on energy issues at the Center of the American Experiment. “We rightly criticize Biden for limiting oil and gas production but even he hasn’t been this vocal about banning fracking.”
A shale gas well drilling site is pictured in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, on March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
According to the Energy Information Administration, an estimated 2.8 billion barrels, the equivalent of 7.8 million barrels per day, of crude oil were produced directly from tight-oil resources in 2022. The drilling method of fracking is required to reach such tight-oil resources buried deep within subterranean reservoirs.
Overall, roughly 67% of all domestically-produced crude oil — which is the basis of petroleum products — is derived from tight-oil resources, the data showed.
In addition, fracking has led to a boon in natural gas production in the U.S. over the last decade. Monthly dry shale gas production, as a result, has skyrocketed from about 5 billion cubic feet per day to more than 80 billion cubic feet a day.
“A ban on hydraulic fracturing — a practice that has been used for over 50 years in the United States and other countries — would result in the loss of millions of jobs, price spikes at the gasoline pump and higher electricity costs for all Americans,” former Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette wrote in a 2021 report on fracking.
“Such a ban would eliminate the United States’ status as the top oil and gas producing country and return us to being a net importer of oil and gas by 2025,” Brouillette continued. “It would weaken America’s geopolitical standing and negatively impact our national security.”
Thomas Catenacci is a politics writer for Fox News Digital.