Republican congressional candidate Jim Bognet questioned Democratic U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright’s commitment to Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry Thursday, but Cartwright said he favors gas production.
During an online forum sponsored by chambers of commerce in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and Honesdale, Bognet tried to tie Cartwright to Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s controversial Green New Deal.
In an effort to tackle climate change, the proposal envisions the federal government actively pursuing an agenda to shift American energy supplies away from carbon-based fuels, including oil and natural gas, to renewable sources like solar and wind power. The goal is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Bognet said Cartwright almost always votes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and portrayed her and Ocasio-Cortez as part of a band of Washington, D.C., Democrats who want to end fracking for natural gas. Bognet wants to promote more production, including greater exports of liquefied natural gas all over the world.
“I believe in fracking, I believe in natural gas,” Bognet said. “Pennsylvania could be the Saudi Arabia of energy … for the 21st century, we have so much natural gas, we can really provide great jobs all over Northeastern Pennsylvania.”
Cartwright, who spoke separately in the hour before Bognet, said he isn’t sponsoring the Green New Deal and questioned its “arbitrary timeline.” He portrayed himself as always “bullish on natural gas production” because it’s a cleaner energy source.
“Climate change is real,” Cartwright said. “Everybody on this call knows that. And we have to do what we can within reason to combat climate change. So moving from coal to natural gas was a big step forward, a lot less carbon going into the atmosphere. We also have to be practical. We will convert to all renewables. There is absolutely no doubt that will happen. But what will drive that is the free market economy, because the price of that will steadily and progressively go down. And eventually it will be cheaper to generate energy from renewable sources than it is to pull it out of the ground, whether it’s oil or gas.”
In the meantime, he said, he supports properly and uniformly regulated natural gas production that controls the chances of fires and pollution, he said.
Both candidates want a massive funding bill to improve the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Cartwright called for a new, larger-scale COVID-19 relief package. Bognet favors passing elements of the package most Congress members agree on, like extending greater unemployment benefits.
Cartwright touted his ability to bring back federal money to the region. If reelected, he said, his expected promotion to chairman of a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee will allow him to do more.
Bognet brought up his experience working on economic development for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003-2006 and said he wants to promote Pennsylvania’s lower taxes to attract talented New Jersey and New York residents, especially with housing cheaper here and more people working from home because of the pandemic.
On ending the nation’s divisions, Cartwright said he had bills signed into law by President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump, regularly sponsors bills with Republicans and was graded well for legislative effectiveness by Vanderbilt University.
Bognet said elections are for fighting over policy, but unity is required once an election ends.
“And it, you know, really hurts my heart when I see people launching ad hominem personal attacks on both sides,” he said. “We have to come together.”