‘Trump’s Promises Are Empty:’ Energy Experts Lay Waste to His Proposals
From making coal great again to ‘cancelling’ the Paris accord, industry analysts say Trump's ideas are farfetched
By Peter Stone
Donald Trump’s energy agenda — which includes pledges of “complete energy independence,” making coal great again and ditching the Paris climate deal — is drawing bipartisan fire from industry analysts, former members of Congress, and even one coal mogul.
All of them, to varying degrees, fault the billionaire’s basic premises and call his promises farfetched and at times contradictory.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
They say the Republican presidential candidate uses faulty math to tout his vision of America’s energy independence, fails to understand energy economics in his pledge to revive the coal industry, and is peddling a big myth by claiming that global warming is a hoax.
Some energy analysts also observe that Trump’s energy prescriptions, including big regulatory cutbacks that have long been industry wishes, are politically expedient and unrealistic. In making his promise to “save the coal industry,” for instance, Trump has backed slashing environmental rules, taking that message to West Virginia earlier this year, when he pledged that the state’s miners, as well as those in Ohio and Pennsylvania, “are going to start to work again, believe me.”
But Charles Ebinger, a senior fellow at Brookings for energy security and climate issues, told the Guardian that “coal jobs aren’t coming back and for Mr. Trump to say they’re coming back is erroneous and fanciful.” Noting that cheap natural gas has been the primary driver behind years of decline for the coal industry, Ebinger added that Trump seems to be “pandering to coal miners.”
Other analysts concur. “Donald Trump’s promise to revive the US coal sector can only be realized by reining in hydraulic fracking,” said Jerry Taylor, the president of libertarian thinktank the Niskanen Center.
“That’s because low-cost natural gas (courtesy of fracking) has done far more to shut down coal-fired power plants and, correspondingly, reduce demand for US coal than has EPA regulations. Given that he promises exactly the opposite — moving heaven and earth to increase US natural gas production — Trump’s promises are empty.”
Even Trump backer and coal mogul Bob Murray, who runs Murray Energy, which has given $100,000 to a pro-Trump Super Pac, says that the coal industry won’t ever be great again. “I don’t think it will be a thriving industry ever again,” Murray told an energy publication this year. “The coal mines cannot come back to where they were or anywhere near it.”
Likewise, Trump used dubious data when he spoke at an energy event in May in North Dakota arranged by fracking billionaire Harold Hamm, a key Trump policy adviser who has been mentioned as a possible energy secretary and recently hosted a big campaign fundraiser.
Echoing some of Hamm’s priorities, Trump pledged to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas, to revoke policies that limit new drilling technologies and to “cancel” the Paris agreement.
Trump also promised “complete energy independence,” a bullish commitment since about a quarter of US energy needs are met by imports, and one that relied on flawed projections of proven oil reserves. Trump stated that the US had 1.5 times the oil of all OPEC countries combined. But at the end of 2014, the US had proven reserves of just under 40 billion barrels, while Saudi Arabia alone had proven reserves of 268 billion barrels.
Similarly, Trump claimed that constructing the Keystone XL pipeline — which, unlike Hillary Clinton, he backs — would create and support 42,000 jobs. But industry projections suggest that building the pipeline would yield about 6,000 jobs directly, and another 7,000 jobs indirectly.
Ex-Conoco Phillips lobbyist Don Duncan compared Trump’s energy proposals to those of an “old snake oil salesman,” saying: “Trump’s energy cures are based on a lot of numbers that clash with energy industry data and scientific studies.”
Trump’s penchant for ignoring facts and hard evidence is also underscored by his attacks on global warming and the Paris accords.
Trump famously tweeted in 2012 that the “concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing less competitive.” Taylor called this “risible.”
“Not one scintilla of evidence exists to back the charge up,” he said. “It’s another example of his willingness to say anything at all — no matter how ridiculous or dishonest — to justify the know-nothingism of his base.”
Trump denied during Monday’s presidential debate having said such a thing, but in a speech last December he referred to global warming as a “hoax” three times in one sentence.
Former US congressman Bob Inglis, a South Carolina Republican who runs a group promoting free enterprise climate change ideas, said Trump’s global warming views were dangerous. “People who presume to be leaders by offering false hope and inflaming passions are disqualifying themselves for leadership.”