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ABU DHABI — Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA (International Energy Agency), told CNBC that a ban on fracking as proposed by some Democratic presidential contenders would have "major implications" for the U.S. energy industry.
"Just banning this would not be good news, not only for Americans but for Europeans," Birol told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" during the World Energy Conference on Monday.
Democratic presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris have all advocated plans to ban the fossil fuel extraction process that has catapulted the U.S. to becoming the world's largest producer of oil.
"This would have major implications on the market for the U.S. economy, for jobs growth and everything, and not good news for energy security, because for example U.S. natural gas provides a lot of security to the markets," Birol said.
"Up to recently, before the U.S. shale gas revolution, Russia was the country which was dominating alone the gas markets. With the U.S. coming into the picture, there is a choice, there are options for the consumers, better for energy security, for diversification."
Fracking advocates say it vastly increases natural gas supply — a cleaner fuel than crude oil — and cuts costs for consumers.
Natural gas mining and extraction employs more than 162,000 workers in the U.S., according to 2019 figures from the Energy Futures Initiative and the National Association of State Energy Officials. More than 625,000 Americans work in the wider natural gas industry.
The Turkish energy expert and economist maintained, however, that climate change is a real concern and warrants commitment to finding solutions that involve the oil and gas industry, rather than exclude it. Climate and environmental scientists also point to the polluting effects of fracking, which has led to earth tremors and contaminants leaking into groundwater.
"I think climate change is serious issue — the oil industry, gas industry have to be part of the solution rather than being the problem or a barrier," he said.
"But stopping oil and gas production is something that I wouldn't advise to the U.S. government or another government. But they have to produce oil and gas in a sustainable manner, and of course technologies and projects are already there to make sustainable oil and gas production."