When President Joe Biden rolls into Pittsburgh on Wednesday to campaign, he’ll face an uphill battle with voters who don’t like his attacks on the fossil fuel industry.

When the White House announced in January that approvals of pending and future applications to export liquified natural gas (LNG) would be paused, Biden said the action “sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time.”

Many people in Pennsylvania disagree.

A recent poll of Pennsylvania voters found 58 percent oppose Biden’s moratorium. Not surprisingly, opposition is higher in Pittsburgh, a city heavily invested in energy production and the jobs it brings, than in the Philadelphia region.

Polling from the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance taken after the White House announced the LNG export suspension found 68 percent of Keystone State Republican and Democratic voters support increasing the country’s investment in natural gas, making it a “rare bipartisan issue,” according to the polling memo from Axis Research.

“This ‘all of the above’ approach to energy sources follows voters’ priorities in the state,” wrote Brenda Gianiny, president of Axis Research. “A majority of voters (51 percent) are focused on the economy and the cost of living; in comparison, just three percent want the state to be focused on climate change.”

Opposition was higher in the Pittsburgh area (and Biden’s hometown of Scranton) than in the Delaware Valley.

Local U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly says Biden’s halt on LNG exports “dramatically threatens Pennsylvania’s flourishing natural gas industry.

“The Biden administration is forcing short-sighted energy policy to fit broader political needs rather than what is in America’s best interest,” Kelly wrote in a recent op-ed. Their track record on American energy leads me to believe that this ‘pause’ may not be temporary after all.”

While Republicans and independents are strongly opposed to Biden’s LNG policy, what the president hears from local Democrats during his swing through Pittsburgh could reinforce his stance. Progressive politics have been on the upswing in the historically blue-collar city, with last fall’s election of Sara Innamorato as Allegheny County Executive and Congresswoman Summer Lee. Both Democrats have roots in the state chapter of Democratic Socialists of America.

Just down the road from Pittsburgh in Washington County, the oil and gas industry is a major economic contributor. According to ShaleWX, the county is 41st in the nation for natural gas production and fourth overall in the state.

So prominent is the industry there that former Washington County Democratic Party chairman Ben Bright wrote a column for the Observer-Reporter newspaper in 2020 extolling the natural gas industry.

“New companies have moved into our area, local businesses have new customers, new people have located into our towns, and new, high-wage jobs have been created for our local workers and trade unions,” Bright wrote in the column that was republished on the Democratic Party’s website. “It has also helped our farming families by providing them with royalty monies to help keep their farms in their families. Every area of our county has seen some benefit of this industry, and we have worked with our local and state officials to protect our environment.”

Whether that support still exists in the party is questionable, though, as progressives look to expand their influence throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. The Environmental Integrity Project took credit last fall for killing a natural gas-fired plant that the Allegheny County Health Department had approved.

But in a possible sign of how the politics will play out, both of Pennsylvania’s Democratic U.S. senators broke with Biden on the LNG policy, including party loyalist Sen. Bob Casey who is up for reelection in November.

Casey and Sen. John Fetterman told the Biden administration in a joint letter that the natural gas industry “created good-paying energy jobs in towns and communities across the Commonwealth and has played a critical role in promoting U.S. energy independence.”

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to point the finger at Biden and his party.

“Pennsylvanians are already being bogged down by Joe Biden’s disastrous and out of touch energy polices, and now he’s making matters even worse. Extreme Pennsylvania Democrats Susan Wild, Matt Cartwright and Chris Deluzio voted to continue Biden’s LNG export ban, putting our energy and national security at risk,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Mike Marinella.