Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed Thursday to bring energy independence to America by getting rid of regulations aimed at curbing pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases, and he lashed out at Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton for planning to “unleash” the Environmental Protection Agency “to control every aspect of our lives.”
“I think the federal government should get out of the way,” Trump said in what was billed as a major energy address. “We have so much potential energy people wouldn’t even believe it.”
Trump also repeated claims that he would be able to revive the coal industry and bring back coal-mining jobs by abolishing environmental and climate regulations. “We’re going to save that coal industry, believe me,” he said. “I love those people.”
He added that “market forces are something I don’t want to get involved with. The market force is a beautiful force.”
Speaking at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, N.D., he also said, “I am prepared to kick the special interests out of Washington, D.C., and to hand the seat of power over to you.”
Trump repeatedly hailed Harold Hamm, an Oklahoma sharecropper’s son who is now the billionaire chief executive of Continental Resources and who built much of his fortune by using fracking to produce shale oil in North Dakota’s Bakken region. Trump called him “one of the great oilmen of the world.”
Environmental groups and energy experts were quick to find fault with much of what Trump said.
Every U.S. president from Richard M. Nixon to George W. Bush has vowed to make the country energy-independent. Yet the United States — even after a wave of shale drilling boosted U.S. domestic output by about 4 million barrels a day — still imports about half of its petroleum needs. The prospect of eliminating imports altogether is slim, although they could be reduced substantially, as has happened during President Obama’s tenure.
“Increasing domestic energy production has economic and geopolitical benefits, but strong and smart environmental protections are needed to clean up toxic waste and clean up the air we breathe, and those shouldn’t be partisan issues,” said Jason Bordoff, director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.
Trump claimed that the United States has 1.5 times as much oil as the combined proven resources of all OPEC countries. Yet according to the federal Energy Information Administration, the United States had proven oil reserves of 39.9 billion barrels as of Dec. 31, 2014. Saudi Arabia alone has proven reserves of about 268 billion barrels, and four other OPEC members have greater reserves than the United States.
Trump also said that the United States has more natural gas than Russia, Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia combined. In fact, according to the EIA, the United States ranks fifth in the world, and its natural gas reserves come to less than a 10th of those countries combined.
Trump’s claim that he would revive the coal industry also drew criticism.
“The U.S. coal industry has been in structural decline for decades, driven by things like weak global demand and cheap natural gas,” said Bordoff, a former director for energy and climate at the National Security Council under Obama. “And eliminating environmental rules protecting air and water are not going to bring those jobs back.”
Trump repeatedly blamed Clinton, saying she “should not be putting them out of business.”
However, in a note to investors about similar coal-mining job claims, Pavel Molchanov, energy analyst at the investment firm Raymond James, said that “coal has been losing ground to natural gas and renewables nearly continuously since 2004 — and none of it had anything to do with the new carbon rules, which aren’t even in effect yet.”
The National Mining Association said in 2014 that there were only 74,931 coal-mining jobs left in the United States, and in the past year those totals have dropped 20 percent or more.
Trump said he would be open to other energy sources, including nuclear, wind and solar. But then he said that solar and wind still required subsidies or had payoff periods too long to be attractive.
“Wind is very expensive,” he said, noting that turbines kill “millions” of birds.
Experts say costs depend on where the turbines are placed. A recent analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance said that wind power is now the cheapest electricity to produce in both Germany and Britain, even without government subsidies.
Trump also repeated that he would seek to withdraw from or rewrite the Paris climate accord that Obama helped negotiate over the past four years.
Trump said the agreement “gives foreign bureaucrats” power so that they will be “controlling what we’re using on our land in our country. No way. No way.”
In fact, the international climate agreement is a collection of commitments each country makes concerning what happens within its own borders. And Paul Bledsoe, an energy consultant, said that “the Paris agreement is in fact the means of getting 185 other countries to cut emissions as the U.S. is already doing, precisely the opposite of what he asserts.”
Trump was very warmly received by an arena packed with as many as 7,000 people who waited in long lines to see the de facto nominee speak. Every proposal Trump threw out was welcomed by loud applause, and the crowd repeatedly jumped to its feet for standing ovations.
He was introduced by the billionaire oilman Hamm.
North Dakota was friendly territory for a speech by Trump on energy. The state has benefited from a surge in shale-oil exploration and production and boasted rock-bottom unemployment rates throughout the Great Recession.
But with low oil prices, the boom has faded a bit. The Baker Hughes drilling rig count found 23 rigs in the state in the week that ended May 20, down from 78 rigs a year earlier. North Dakota’s unemployment rate has crept up to 3.2 percent from 2.7 percent at the end of last year.
Trump also said that as president he would invite the Canadian company TransCanada to reapply for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline from the oil sands of Alberta to southern Nebraska, where it would link to other pipelines. But he said that he would try to extract a U.S. ownership interest in the pipeline.
“I would absolutely approve it, but I’d want a better deal,” he said.