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DeSantis Actually Did Want to Ban Fracking in Florida

Nikki Haley was right.

Ron DeSantis.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

A single moment at the second Republican debate revealed the party’s utter confusion about how to handle environmental issues.

It came in the second hour, in a testy back-and-forth between Nikki Haley, the former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor, and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Haley said that at the United Nations, she learned that “energy security is national security.”

“We need a president that understands we have to partner with our producers and make sure that we have their backs,” she said.

Then she homed in on DeSantis: “Ron is against fracking, he's against drilling. He always talks about what happens on day one. But you better watch out because what happens on day two is when you're in trouble. Day Two in Florida, you banned fracking, you banned offshore drilling, and you took green subsidies that you didn’t need to take,” she said.

DeSantis ignored the attack at first. “I just did a plan in West Texas for American energy dominance,” he said. At that event, he promised, with no small amount of foolishness, to get gas back down below $2 a gallon, something that is not in a president’s ability.

“We’re going to choose Midland over Moscow,” he said Wednesday night, referencing a Texas city known for its oil industry. “We’re going to choose the Marcelus over the Mullah, and we’re going to choose the Bakken over Beijing, and we’re going to lower your gas prices.”

When Haley kept up the attack, DeSantis claimed that Florida voters — not him — ultimately passed a constitutional amendment banning fracking.

But in fact, Haley is right. Running for governor in 2018, DeSantis pledged to ban fracking on “Day One” of his term. He also promised to stop offshore oil drilling, which the Trump administration was then considering for Florida’s Atlantic coast. “With Florida’s geological makeup of limestone and shallow water sources, fracking presents a danger to our state that is not acceptable,” his gubernatorial campaign website said.

Voters backed him — and, in the same election, rejected offshore drilling. In 2018, Floridians voted in favor of a referendum that made two changes to the state constitution: It banned offshore drilling in state waters and vaping in indoor work places. (Ah, Florida.)

But fracking remained unbanned. So on the second day of his administration, DeSantis signed an executive order telling state officials to “take necessary actions to adamantly oppose” fracking and offshore drilling.

These moves didn’t come in a vacuum. During his first term, DeSantis repeatedly cast himself as an environmental moderate, seeking to differentiate himself from his immediate predecessor, Rick Scott. During his 2022 reelection, DeSantis continued to promise to ban fracking in the state.

For her part, Haley has long sought to open up more drilling in her state. As governor in 2012, she joined South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in calling for an expansion of offshore drilling off the coast of South Carolina.

Those plans never took. And after Trump appointed Haley to the UN in 2017, she was replaced by her lieutenant governor Henry McMaster, who was far less interested in offshore drilling.

Of course, this sparring match proceeded without any recognition of global warming. Earlier this week, the International Energy Association said that if the world cuts its oil and gas demand enough to meet the 1.5 degree goal, then it will not need significant new fossil-fuel reserves.

Robinson Meyer profile image

Robinson Meyer

Robinson is the founding executive editor of Heatmap. He was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covered climate change, energy, and technology.


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