BISMARCK, N.D.—Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, promised May 26 to roll back some of America's most ambitious environmental policies, actions that he said would revive the ailing U.S. oil and coal industries and bolster national security.
Among the proposals, Trump said he would pull the U.S. out of the U.N. global climate accord, approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and rescind measures by President Barack Obama to cut U.S. emissions and protect waterways from industrial pollution.
"Any regulation that's outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped and scrapped completely," Trump told about 7,700 people at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, the capital of oil-rich North Dakota. "We're going to do all this while taking proper regard for rational environmental concerns."
It was Trump's first speech detailing the energy policies he would advance if elected president. He received loud applause from the crowd of oil executives.
The comments painted a stark contrast between the New York billionaire and his Democratic rivals for the White House, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who advocate a sharp turn away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy technologies to combat climate change.
Trump slammed both rivals in his speech, saying their policies would kill jobs and force the United States "to be begging for oil again" from Middle East producers.
"It's not going to happen. Not with me," he said.
However, even with the meteoric rise in oil production from shale, some of Trump’s energy plan statements appear to be unsupportable.
“America has 1.5 times as much oil as the combined proven resources of all OPEC countries,” the plan states. However, just two of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)—Saudi Arabia and Venezuela were estimated in 2015 to have 566.7 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, according to the CIA World Factbook. The U.S. oil estimates at that time were 36.5 billion barrels.
On its website, OPEC claims all member nations have 81% of the world’s share of crude oil reserves, or 1.2 trillion barrels.
Similarly, Trump’s plan said that “we have more natural gas than Russia, Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia combined.”
In 2014, the U.S. was estimated to have 338.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proved natural gas reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The total for the countries named by Trump is 4,057.1 Tcf, roughly a dozen times more than the U.S.
Trump's comments drew quick criticism from environmental advocates, who called his proposals "frightening."
"Trump’s energy policies would accelerate climate change, protect corporate polluters who profit from poisoning our air and water, and block the transition to clean energy that is necessary to strengthen our economy and protect our climate and health," said Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmental activist.
But industry executives cheered the stance.
"It’s simple. If Trump wins, oil field workers will be happy. If Clinton wins, oil workers will be unhappy," said Derrick Alexander, an operations manager at oilfield services firm Integrated Productions Services.
American Energy Alliance (AEA) President Thomas Pyle told Scientific American that his organization is “definitely pleased with the basic outlines of his approach to these issues.”
“This was a very good opening statement for Donald Trump as to how he would direct his administration both on the regulatory side and on the energy side,” Pyle said.
However, Trump has said he supports the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and ethanol, a contentious matter for some oil and gas groups, including AEA, has said the “EPA’s RFS proposal is once again detached from reality. The agency is forcing unsafe levels of biofuel into our nation’s fuel supply.”
Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, said in a May 26 release that Trump plans to meet with Iowa Gov. Terry Granstad about ensuring “a strong RFS past 2022.”
“We could not agree more. It is vital that Mr. Trump stay true to his principles on ethanol because the RFS is our country’s most successful energy policy,” Skor said.
Trump hit Clinton hard in his speech, as well, saying the former secretary of state would be more aggressive than Obama on regulations. He repeated several times Clinton’s March comments that her policies would put coal miners out of work.
"Hillary Clinton's agenda is job destruction," Trump said.
Trump said slashing regulation would help the United States achieve energy independence and reduce America's reliance on Middle Eastern producers. "Imagine a world in which oil cartels will no longer use energy as a weapon," he said.
The United States currently produces about 55 percent of the oil it uses, with another quarter of the total coming from Canada and Mexico, and less than 20 percent coming from OPEC, according to U.S. Energy Department statistics.
Trump's advisers, including U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, have said they suggested Trump examine the role of OPEC in the global oil price slump since 2014, which has been cited by many companies seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Since 2015, 77 oil and gas companies with $51.9 billion in debt have initated bankruptcy proceedings, according to Haynes and Boone LLP.
Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members have declined to cut production to support prices and a proposal to freeze production growth has stalled.
Until Thursday, Trump had been short on details of his energy policy. He has said he believes global warming is a hoax, that his administration would revive the U.S. coal industry, and that he supports hydraulic fracturing - an environmentally controversial drilling technique that has triggered a boom in U.S. production.
Earlier this month, he told Reuters in an interview that he would renegotiate "at a minimum" the U.N. global climate accord agreed by 195 countries in Paris last December, saying he viewed the deal as bad for U.S. business.
He took that a step further in North Dakota. "We're going to cancel the Paris climate agreement," he said.
Trump also promised he would invite Canadian pipeline company TransCanada to reapply to build the Keystone XL pipeline into the United States, reversing a decision by Obama to block the project over environmental concerns.
"I want it built, but I want a piece of the profits," Trump said. "That's how we're going to make our country rich again."
Trump's pledge briefly sent TransCanada's shares 29 Canadian cents higher to C$54.13 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but the stock quickly leveled back off and close up 2 Canadian cents at C$53.86.
In response to Trump's promise that he would seek more profits from the pipeline, TransCanada spokesman James Millar noted the project would create jobs, offer major contracts to U.S. suppliers and provide tens of millions in taxes for state coffers.
"The pipeline will benefit American workers longer term as the companies they work for have signed contracts to ship and refine oil through Keystone XL," Millar said in an email.
Additional reporting by Hart Energy staff.
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