Port: Democrats would turn off North Dakota's economy like a light switch

Why are so many people from places like North Dakota and Texas and Pennsylvania sticking with Trump? Because their jobs and their families and communities' wellbeing matter more to them than presidential decorum. Can you blame them?

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MINOT, N.D. — I have a friend who is a journalist who asks me the same question after each new bout of egregious behavior from President Donald Trump.

"How can Republicans stand that guy?" he asks.

It's a fair question. Trump is an embarrassment.

My friend and many political observers don't understand that the presidential election comes down to a binary choice.

Yes, Trump is bad, but what are Democrats offering as an alternative?


Economic devastation if you live in oil and gas country. Places such as Oklahoma, Texas, Pennsylvania and North Dakota.

Here in North Dakota, the industry drives tens of thousands of jobs and more than half of all the tax dollars paid to the state . In Texas, some 162,000 people are employed by the oil and gas industry. In Pennsylvania, it's almost 18,000.

Yet the Democrats, locally and, even moreso, at the national level, hate the oil and gas industry.

Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, though they deny it now that we're in the general election period and they have a need to at least appear moderate, are on the record saying they'd ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

That's the drilling technique that has made the resurgence of domestic oil and gas production possible. If you ban fracking, the oil industry in America will fall off a cliff.

Then, at last night's debate, Biden called for a phase-out of the oil industry within a decade and a half.

"I never said I oppose fracking," Biden said at one point during the debate. But he has, repeatedly.

"We would make sure it’s eliminated," he said during a July 2019 debate on CNN .


"So am I," Biden responded when Bernie Sanders, during their final debate , said he's "talking about stopping fracking." Later in that same debate, Biden said, "No more, no new fracking."

Biden is lying.

There was also this exchange between Trump and Biden during last night's debate:

  • TRUMP: Would you close down the oil industry?
  • BIDEN: By the way, I have a transition from the old industry, yes.
  • TRUMP: Oh, that’s a big statement.
  • BIDEN: I will transition. It is a big statement.
  • TRUMP: That’s a big statement.
  • BIDEN: Because I would stop.
  • KRISTEN WELKER: Why would you do that?
  • BIDEN: Because the oil industry pollutes, significantly.
  • TRUMP: Oh, I see. OK.
  • BIDEN: Here’s the deal —
  • TRUMP: That’s a big statement.

What's the timeline for the Biden transition away from oil?
"The first place to do that by the year 2035 is in energy production, by 2050 totally," he said later in the debate.

In 15 years, we're going to transition away from a product every person in the United States uses for everything from transportation to electricity to home heating and consumer products?

That's not possible. Not without an enormous blow to the standard of living most Americans enjoy now, even beyond the direct impact on oil and gas jobs in places like Texas and North Dakota.


During the debate, Biden railed about supposed "subsidies" given to the oil and gas industry, but what he's talking about aren't really subsidies. " What he means are provisions in the tax code that allow companies to deduct a majority of the costs incurred from drilling new wells domestically, percentage depletion that works akin to depreciation in assets, tax credits for reducing carbon emissions, and a 2004 reduction in the corporate tax rate," Jim Geraghty explains at National Review.

Letting private businesses and private people keep more of their own money is not a subsidy. You might not think it's good tax policy, but it's not a subsidy.

Local Democrats here in North Dakota are much more muted in their disdain of the oil and gas industry, and they're fond of explaining, ad nauseum, that they aren't like their national counterparts.

But they are.

We can tell, not just because the North Dakota Democratic-NPL doesn't hold a single seat in the Legislature from west of Bismarck, but because they rail against policies supporting our state's oil and gas industry every chance they get.

Case in point, North Dakota's Republican-led government used a tiny slice of the billions in CARES Act funding to fund the capping of old oil wells. These wells have been a lingering problem for the state and landowners for a long time. They're unfortunate leftovers from another era of energy production in our state, and the companies responsible for them mostly aren't around anymore.

The CARES Act dollars were used to cap many of these wells and keep some folks in the oil and gas industry on the job amid the pandemic, which to any reasonable observer seems like a very elegant win-win. Not only do the dollars bring economic relief to one of our state's most important industries, but it also addresses a long-standing problem with the wells.

North Dakota's Democrats don't see it that way, describing this as nothing more than a handout to the oil industry . Forgetting, I guess, about the roughnecks who got to keep a steady paycheck because of that funding.

They don't matter, apparently.

Why are so many people from places like North Dakota and Texas and Pennsylvania sticking with Trump?

Because their jobs and their families and communities' wellbeing matter more to them than presidential decorum.

Can you blame them?

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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