On the October 19 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends First, co-host Carley Shimkus interviewed guest John Diercks, a former meteorology professor at Penn State University. Diercks proceeded to make several highly dubious statements about fracking, and Shimkus did not push back on any of them.
Firstly, Diercks falsely claimed that Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman would ban fracking in Pennsylvania. Fetterman has been consistently opposed to the idea of a fracking ban in Pennsylvania. As far back as 2019, Fetterman called fracking a "vital, thriving industry" in Pennsylvania, and said that “the reality on the ground in Pennsylvania is that it exists and it’s going to continue.” Numerous articles featuring quotes from Fetterman in 2020 and 2021 also show his opposition to a fracking ban. (Fetterman did at one point support a moratorium on fracking, which would stop the practice only until its environmental issues were fixed. This is of course different from an outright, permanent ban). And in last week’s interview with NBC News, Fetterman again expressed support for fracking.
Diercks also discussed the jobs and economic benefits that would be affected by any changes to Pennsylvania’s fracking industry. Without citing any sources, Diercks claimed that fracking supports 40,000 jobs in Pennsylvania and accounts for "$50 billion in Pennsylvania's economy." According to the nonprofit advocacy group PennFuture, “The industry employs about 24,000 people and contributes about $583 million to Pennsylvania’s economy annually.” PennFuture further states, “The industry creates a negligible percentage of Pennsylvania jobs, many of which are outsourced, while taking credit for a broad swath of jobs in other industries.”
As Pennsylvania’s overall GDP stands at roughly $714 billion, fracking accounts for just 0.00082% of Pennsylvania’s economy.
Finally, Diercks claimed that fracking “is not going to be replaced by green jobs any near time in the future.” According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, “At the end of 2020, there were just over 90,000 clean energy workers across Pennsylvania,” which is already vastly more than the unsubstantiated 40,000 fracking jobs number thrown around by Diercks.
During the presidential election in 2020, Fox was obsessed with the idea that Biden would ban fracking if elected president – even though he repeatedly stated on the campaign trail that he would not. Also during that election, Fox (and other cable news outlets) grossly overstated the importance of fracking to Pennsylvania voters. Given this, Fox’s focus on Fetterman and the supposed benefits of fracking here may be a harbinger of things to come.