Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump gave a speech about energy issues on May 26 at an oil conference in North Dakota in which he asserted that he would expand fossil fuel drilling and restore coal mining jobs and he ignored or downplayed renewable energy’s potential. Media figures have criticized Trump’s claims as “utter nonsense” that “defy free market-forces” and noted that his remarks displayed a “lack of basic knowledge” about the energy industry and were full of “absurd, impossible-to-keep promises.”
Trump Gave Speech Promising To Expand Drilling, Cut Climate Policies
Trump Gave Keynote Speech To Oil Conference About Energy. On May 26, Trump gave a keynote speech at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, ND, discussing energy issues. As The New York Times reported, during the speech and its preceding press conference, Trump “called for more fossil fuel drilling and fewer environmental regulations while vowing to ‘cancel the Paris climate agreement,’ the 2015 accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to curb climate change.” [Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, accessed 5/27/16; The New York Times, 5/27/16]
Media Debunk Trump On Coal Industry Jobs
NY Times: Trump’s Vow To Restore Coal Jobs Not Entirely “Viable.” The New York Times reported:
[E]lements of Mr. Trump’s energy proposals appear less viable. As coal mining jobs have declined, Mr. Trump has vowed to fully restore their numbers.
“We’re going to bring back the coal industry, save the coal industry,” he said. “I love those people.”
It is unclear how Mr. Trump could restore lost jobs in the coal industry. As domestic coal demand has declined, companies have laid off thousands of miners. But economists say that shift is driven by market forces: The natural gas boom led power companies to buy cheaper gas rather than coal.
“Most analysts would say that coal is hurting because natural gas prices have collapsed,” said Robert McNally, the president of the Rapidan Group, an energy consulting firm, and a senior energy official in the George W. Bush administration. “Donald Trump would have to find a way to raise natural gas prices.” [The New York Times, 5/27/16]
Time Magazine: Trump’s Promise To Save Coal “Def[ies] Common Understandings Of The Workings Of The Energy Industry.” Time reported:
Trump offered few details … behind any of his proposals, some of which defy common understandings of the workings of the energy industry. His promise to save coal, for instance, runs counter to market forces that have made the energy source increasingly unfeasible. Coal has become more expensive as an energy source in comparison to natural gas. Without the giant subsidies Trump says he loathes, a clear path to propping up the coal industry remains unclear. [Time, 5/26/16]
Wash. Post: Energy Experts Criticized Trump’s Coal Claim. The Washington Post reported:
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, recently 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 is 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 Washington Post, 5/26/16]
Media Debunk Trump On Energy Independence
NY Times: Experts Say Trump’s Remarks On Energy Independence “Display A Basic Ignorance Of The Workings Of The Global Oil Markets.” The New York Times reported:
Mr. Trump also repeatedly emphasized “energy independence” — the idea that the United States could isolate itself from global oil markets and cease importing fuels.
“Under my presidency, we will accomplish complete American energy independence,” he said. “We will become totally independent of the need to import energy from the oil cartel or any nation hostile to our interest.”
But experts say that such remarks display a basic ignorance of the workings of the global oil markets.
“Even if energy independence was achievable, it would not be desirable,” Mr. Newell, the Duke University energy economist, wrote in an email. “Our interests tend to be best served by getting each type of fuel we need from the least expensive source, be it domestic or imported. When domestic U.S. energy is globally competitive, like the recent oil and gas boom, our imports go down. But energy independence itself is one of the least useful energy policy goals — and is at times damaging.” [The New York Times, 5/26/16]
Politico: Experts Say Energy Independence “Isn’t Remotely Possible” And Limiting Foreign Oil Supplies “Would Likely Only Harm The U.S.” Politico reported:
Energy experts say "complete” energy independence for the U.S. isn't remotely possible, and Trump's comment goes beyond what even the biggest proponents in the oil and gas industry have sought in recent years. Rather, the industry and its backers have pushed “North American energy independence,” which would combine the formidable resources of Canada and Mexico with those in the U.S.
And in fact, U.S. imports of oil from OPEC have tumbled by more than 50 percent since they peaked in 2008, and they currently amount to about a third of the oil that U.S. refiners buy from other countries. Cutting off the rest of OPEC shipments might also prove difficult, particularly since Saudi Arabia will soon be the sole owner of the largest refinery in the U.S., the Port Arthur, Texas plant.
And energy market experts say any restrictions on limiting supplies from OPEC would likely only harm the U.S., which is by far the world’s largest oil consumer and could see its prices surge if it eliminates a major supply avenue. [Politico, 5/26/16]
Vox’s David Roberts: Trump’s Promise Of American Energy Independence Is “Utter Nonsense.” Vox’s David Roberts tweeted:
Trump promises "complete American energy independence -- COMPLETE." That is utter nonsense.
— David Roberts (@drvox) May 26, 2016
Grist’s Ben Adler: If President, Trump Will “Find Out The Hard Way That We Can’t Drill Our Way To ‘Energy Independence.’” Grist’s Ben Adler wrote:
Trump’s energy speech on Thursday demonstrated two things: He’s trying to reassure the GOP establishment that he will be a team player and adopt their economic agenda, and yet he still has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to energy policy. If he becomes president, he’ll find out the hard way that we can’t drill our way to “energy independence.” [Grist, 5/27/16]
Media Debunk Trump On Renewable Energy
Wash. Post’s Philip Bump: Trump Wrong On Wind Killing “Hundreds” Of Eagles. In response to Trump’s claim that “the windmills are killing hundreds and hundreds of eagles,” Washington Post writer Philip Bump explained:
It's true; turbines are often situated in places with good wind currents, which birds also like to use. The Audubon Society estimates that between 140,000 and 328,000 birds die each year from turbines. Some of them are eagles — but not hundreds. One assessment published in 2013 counted 85 dead eagles over a span of 15 years.
But context here is helpful. Windows, like those in the skyscrapers built by Donald Trump, are responsible for the deaths of between 365 million and 988 million birds a year all around the world. Each skyscraper kills an estimated 24 birds per year. [The Washington Post, 5/26/16]
BuzzFeed: Contrary To Trump’s “Strange” Claim That Wind Is Costly, Wind On Land Is “One Of The Cheapest Sources Of Electrical Power.” BuzzFeed’s Dan Vergano wrote:
The strangest thing that Trump said in his speech was “wind is very expensive.” In reality, windmills on land are one of the cheapest sources of electrical power, according to the [U.S. Energy Information Administration]. [BuzzFeed, 5/26/16]
Vox: Solar Prices “Have Been Dropping Precipitously.” In response to Trump’s claim that “the problem with solar is it’s very expensive,” Vox writer Brad Plumer noted that Trump “made no mention of the fact that solar prices have been dropping precipitously.” [Vox, 5/26/16]
Mashable: Trump Overlooked Renewable Energy Growth. Mashable’s Andrew Freedman reported:
In front of an oil industry audience, Trump never once mentioned that the fastest-growing energy sectors in the U.S. are solar and wind, not oil and coal.
For example, last year, the majority of new power added to the electrical grid came from renewable sources, primarily wind and solar, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Wind and solar have increased by 57% above 2008 levels. This was the second year in a row that renewables overtook fossil fuels for the top spot on the energy growth list.
Instead of speaking truth to power and saying that the glory days of "drill, baby, drill" may be gone, as a market-based transition to renewable energy continues, he chose to throw red meat to the crowd. [Mashable, 5/26/16]
Media, Experts Criticize Trump’s General Lack Of Understanding About Energy Issues
Foreign Policy: Trump Showed “Same Lack Of Basic Knowledge” About Energy Industry “That He Has Shown On Nuclear Weapons, International Alliances, And Global Trade.” Foreign Policy’s Keith Johnson reported:
Donald Trump waded into energy policy in a speech in North Dakota on Thursday, betraying the same lack of basic knowledge about how the energy business works that he has shown on nuclear weapons, international alliances, and global trade.
The presumptive nominee rattled off a litany of confusing or incorrect statements about U.S. and global energy. He said that federal regulations on oil producers make it “harder and harder to turn a profit,” overlooking a historic collapse in oil prices. He said he would legalize U.S. crude oil exports, which Congress already did last year. And he compared sanctions relief on Iran to the Obama administration’s hostile stance toward the Keystone pipeline, complaining that now more oil will flow through Iran’s “pipeline with no environmental review whatsoever.” Iran, of course, exports its crude oil by tankers. [Foreign Policy, 5/26/16]
Grist’s Ben Adler: Trump Made “Absurd, Impossible-To-Keep Promises.” Grist reporter Ben Adler wrote:
Donald Trump has sold himself as a different kind of Republican, but in his first energy policy speech on Thursday, he adopted the same tired, old energy ideas that have been trotted out by the GOP establishment for years. The only difference: Trump doesn’t actually understand the issues at play, so he avoided specifics and made absurd, impossible-to-keep promises. [Grist, 5/27/16]
NY Times: Some Of Trump’s Claims “Essentially Defy Free-Market Forces.” The New York Times reported:
[E]xperts remain skeptical of Mr. Trump’s command of the complexities of the global energy economy. And he made claims, such as a promise to restore jobs lost in coal mining, that essentially defy free-market forces.
“Many of his proposals thus far don’t seem to appreciate the complex forces that drive the energy system,” said Richard G. Newell, an energy economist at Duke University who has closely followed Mr. Trump’s remarks. [The New York Times, 5/26/16]
CNN’s Chris Cuomo: Trump “Proposed A Lot Of Things That Can’t Be Done.” From an interview between CNN host Chris Cuomo and Trump senior campaign adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the May 27 edition of New Day:
CHRIS CUOMO (HOST): Donald Trump put out a big speech about his energy policy, about coal, about oil, about regulation. And the criticism of it is that he proposed a lot of things that can't be done. You can't get rid of all of the EPA regulations. You can't just make coal as huge as it once was. There are good and bad reasons for that. Fair criticisms that the proposal can't do what Donald Trump says it will do. [CNN, New Day, 5/27/16]