Frack Check Shows Trump’s Errors in Pittsburgh Talk

by Diana Gooding on October 28, 2019

Protests at the Shale Insight Conference

Frack Check: Trump’s most dubious claims made in his Pittsburgh fracking speech

From the Article by Ryan Deto, Pittsburgh City Paper, October 24, 2019

Protests against fracking took place outside President Trump’s visit to the Shale Insight conference.

During his speech in front of a pro-fracking and mostly pro-Trump crowd, President Donald Trump spoke about the progress of his proposed border wall … in Colorado.

“You know how we’re going to win New Mexico?” Trump asked the crowd at the Shale Insight conference at the David Lawrence Convention Center. “Because they want safety on their border. And they didn’t have it. And we’re building a wall on the border of New Mexico. And we’re building a wall in Colorado. We’re building a beautiful wall, a big one that really works.”

As most Americans know, Colorado is located in the middle of the Western U.S. and doesn’t touch any international border. Trump attempted to explain his Colorado statement later on Twitter, saying it was meant to say that Colorado would benefit from the proposed border wall, but by then his statement had already gone viral.

But that wasn’t the only dubious or false claim that Trump made during his hour-long speech in front of the crowd at the natural gas conference in Downtown on Wednesday. He also spoke misleadingly about former President Barack Obama’s role in the fracking industry, outright lied about U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb’s (D-Mt. Lebanon) voting record, conflated statistics on factory jobs, and overplayed fracking’s role in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
click to enlarge Screenshot from the White House live feed of Trump’s speech at Shale Insight Conference
Screenshot from the White House live feed of Trump’s speech at Shale Insight Conference

Trump claimed the natural gas industry hurt under Obama

Early on in his speech, Trump said that environmental regulations under Obama’s administration hurt the natural gas industry, even saying the regulations were causing it to go “bankrupt.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, oil production, including natural gas, actually increased greatly under Obama. From 2008-2015, crude oil and natural gas production grew exponentially. Starting in 2015, both crude oil and natural gas production started to dip slightly, but natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale region that encompasses most of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia continued to grow.

Even accounting for the slight nationwide decrease at the end of the Obama presidency, oil production still quadrupled between 2008 and 2016.

Starting in 2017, when Trump entered office, total crude oil and natural gas production started to rise again.

But as nonprofit publication the High Country News notes, that fluctuation in the late 2010s was likely a result of supply and demand, not Trump rolling back regulations, noting that actions of over pumping in Saudi Arabia in late 2014 led to a dramatic drop in the price of oil, and thus resulted in a big decrease in American production.

Trump claimed Conor Lamb never votes with Trump and the GOP

Trump took shots at Lamb about midway through his speech. Lamb was one of the only Democratic federal politicians to win a special election during Trump’s term, and he won a district that Trump himself carried by about 20 points in 2016.

Trump criticized Lamb and claimed that he “never votes with us,” referencing the GOP’s voting preferences. This is easily disproved.

As City Paper has documented, Lamb has voted with the GOP on a number of issues, breaking ranks with his Democratic colleagues. In 2019, with Democrats in control of the U.S. House, Lamb voted with Republicans at least six times on Motions to Recommit, which are attempts by the opposing party to alter legislation at the last minute.

In October 2018, when Republicans were in control of the House, Lamb joined the GOP in extending the party’s tax cuts to individuals. Trump later signed this legislation into law. And in April 2018, Lamb again joined Republicans in voting for a rollback of a consumer-protection regulation known as the Volker Rule, which Trump also eventually signed into law.

Trump also attacked Lamb and claimed he was not supportive of fracking, which Lamb responded to on Twitter, sharing a press release from a pro-fracking group that had praised Lamb less than a week ago. Trump claims the U.S. gained 10,000 new factories under his administration.

Later in the speech, Trump also claimed America has had 10,000 new factory openings during his term. “But after losing 60,000 — it’s not even possible to believe that much — 60,000 factories under the previous two administrations, we’ve now gained nearly 10,000 new factories under my administration,” said Trump.

CP couldn’t confirm the exact number of new factories opened during Trump’s presidency, but manufacturing employment has increased by more than 471,000 jobs (about 4 percent) since January 2017.

However, any claim that this is unprecedented is incorrect. In the first 28 months of Obama’s presidents after the Great Recession started to turn around, there were 525,000 manufacturing jobs created.

Also, during Trump’s presidency, the average hourly wage for manufacturing workers has only risen by 4.7 percent, just above the rate of inflation and lower than the average wage increase for all U.S. workers of 7.1 percent.

And manufacturing growth is not spread out evenly throughout the country. In Pennsylvania, from August 2018 to August 2019, manufacturing employment fell by about 7,700 workers. Wisconsin lost about 5,200 manufacturing jobs.

Over the same time span, Texas gained about 26,700 manufacturing jobs. Texas has about one-third the rate of union members as Pennsylvania.

“Anti-energy zealots want to ban shale energy, which has lowered emissions,” said Trump.

The burning of natural gas for energy production does produce far fewer carbon-dioxide emissions than burning coal. And as natural gas production has increased over the last several years, and coal production has decreased, emissions were shrinking for the last three years.

But then they rose by 3.4 percent in 2018.

The reasons behind this are complex, but natural gas played a role in the 2018 increase. As news site Vox explains, even as coal-fired power plants shut down, demand for energy still rose and natural gas filled in the void.

Drilling for natural gas produces large amounts of methane emissions, and methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Also, the transportation sector, the industry sector, and buildings all continued their increased their emissions in 2018, offsetting any gains from the loss of coal emissions.

According to the Washington Post, Trump has made more than 13,000 false claims since the start of his presidency.

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