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Scott Sheffield, chairman and CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, in his office in Irving, Texas. (Photographer: Ben Sklar/ Bloomberg Businessweek)

Scott Sheffield, chairman and CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, in his office in Irving, Texas. (Photographer: Ben Sklar/ Bloomberg Businessweek)

Fracking Tycoon Admits Democrats Better for Business Than GOP

Whether the Democratic Party will continue to support fracking has become a hot-button issue during this year's presidential campaign

Lauren McCauley

Despite the widely-held belief that the Republican Party and the fossil fuel industry are natural allies, one of the world's most prominent fracking tycoons admitted Tuesday that, actually, his business has fared better under Democrats.

"The industry has actually historically done better under Democratic presidents during my 42 years, going back, than under Republican presidents," said Scott Sheffield, chairman and CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, which runs an enormous oil drilling operation in West Texas' Permian Basin.

Sheffield went on to explain how from the time Democratic President Barack Obama took office in January 2009 to the crash of the oil market at the end of 2014, his business skyrocketed, with Pioneer stock reaching the fifth place on the S&P exchange and first in the industry market.

The remarks came in response to a question from a reporter with Inside Climate News during a CEO speaker session at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The reporter was asking Sheffield to comment on how important the 2016 presidential election is for the future of fossil fuel industry, and more specifically, the industry's tepid support for Republican Party nominee, Donald Trump.

"I think most of us would agree that [...] there are better candidates on each side," Sheffield said, referring to Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. "That doesn't meant that either person [couldn't] end up doing a great job." The fossil fuel industry is "going to support whoever is president. Our goal is to educate them both on the importance of strong domestic oil and gas," which, he said, includes the need to grow the industry and access even more oil and gas deposits.

During his tenure as CEO, Sheffield bet heavily on the controversial use of fracking—shooting a toxic slurry into shale rock to release hard-to-reach oil deposits—which has flourished under Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy policy.

"Under his leadership, Pioneer helped transform the Texas Permian Basin from a minor producer of conventionally drilled oil and gas into one of the world's major players in shale-fracked petro products," the Dallas Morning News reported when Sheffield announced his pending retirement in May. According to Bloomberg, Pioneer holds the rights to 800,000 acres and over 20,000 drilling sites in the Permian Basin, which could hold as much as 10 billion barrels of crude oil.

Whether the Democratic Party will continue to support fracking has become a hot-button issue during this year's presidential campaign.

Despite ample evidence that the drilling process is a danger to human and environmental health, and is a substantial contributor to global warming, Clinton surrogates derailed an effort to include language supporting a national fracking ban in the party platform. On the eve of next week's Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, a coalition of environmental, public health, and labor groups are preparing a massive "March for a Clean Energy Revolution" to pressure Clinton and party elites to take a more decisive stance against the fossil fuel industry in the general election.

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