Upon electing President Donald Trump, the United States was told it was moving toward self-sustaining energy dominance. Coming off the Obama administration — which passed environmental rules such as the Clean Power Plan and rollbacks on land leasing for fossil fuels — it would seem this president is taking the “crisis” out of global climate concerns and is instead leaning into fossil fuel development.
It’s no secret that since he’s taken office, the shape of fossil fuel policy has shifted from previous administrations. Where former President Barack Obama was following global trends — such as signing onto the international climate agreements and passing the CPP — this administration looks to fossil fuels as the future for the United States.
Undoing the past
Fairly soon after taking office, Trump undid the Obama-era retirement of offshore leasing in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, pulled out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, and opened an extensive amount of public land tracts in order to capitalize on coal, oil and natural gas. Through his use of executive power, Trump has made it clear that any and all energy is in the best interest of the United States. The first section of Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth (or Executive Order 13783) describes that utilizing the “nation’s vast energy sources” without unnecessary “regulatory burdens” is best for economic growth and job creation, but it also ensures the “geopolitical security” of the United States.
The order mandated agency review of all rules related to domestic energy development. Other direct jabs at his predecessor’s goals to refocus energy production include (but are not limited to) rescinding the following:
- Executive Order 13653 of November 1, 2013 (which was meant to prepare for impacts of climate change)
- The Presidential Memorandum of June 25, 2013 (which set Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards);
- The Presidential Memorandum of November 3, 2015 (which mitigated impacts on natural resources from private investment); and
- The Presidential Memorandum of September 21, 2016 (which addressed climate change and national security).
Though not all specifically related to the development of fossil fuels, since enforcing EO 13783, 85 environmental rules have been reversed or are in progress to be (Popovich, 2019).
Looking to the future
After Trump’s first full year of backing a blooming landscape for fossil fuel production, the industry did quite well. In 2017, energy consumption in the United States saw a slight percentage increase in overall growth. From 2016 to 2017, oil production grew by 5.6 percent, natural gas increased by 1 percent and coal increased by 6.9 percent. A similar pattern is found in the 2018 numbers.
Concluded in BP’s annual Statistical Review of World Energy, the United States was responsible for nearly all of the global oil production increase at 2.2 million barrels per day. For the same year, the United States accounted for a majority of natural gas production as well. Of the 5.2 percent global increase in natural gas production (or 190 billion cubic meters), the U.S.contributed 86 billion cubic meters. Both these increases were reported as a record high for “any country in any year” (BP, 2019).
Industry and elections
When discussing how policy determines the future of energy consumption and production, investments and political relationships are something to consider.
After forging relationships during his last time on the campaign trail, he’s again ramping up for 2020. Millions of dollars for Trump’s re-election have stemmed from fossil fuel lobbyists and industry leaders. Robert Murray, who CNN has called the “king of the coal industry,” hosted a fundraiser for Trump’s 2020 campaign that brought in $2.5 million. Also, Jeff Miller, a fossil fuel lobbyist, raised $1 million toward Trump’s campaign.
In 2016, it was reported that checks from the fossil fuel industry went to Trump’s presidential campaign. After he was elected, the money continued to pour in, a portion going directly to groups that supported deregulating the stringent regulations on the industry.
He’s made way pushing an energy-focused agenda within departments. Though he has since resigned, Donald Trump’s choice as head of the Environmental Protection Agency was Scott Pruitt. Pruitt had long-time experience as an expert lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry.
Depending on the opinions of those in power, energy resource masterplans will continue to fluctuate. However, the relationships of those involved with the decision-makers are always useful background.
Nadia Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka, and Kenda Pierre-Louis (2019). “85 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump.” The New York Times
Peter Stone (2019). “‘Swampy symbiosis’: fossil fuel industry has more clout than ever under Trump.” The Guardian
Donald Trump (2017). “Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth”
BP (2018). “Statistical Review of World Energy”
BP (2019). “Statistical Review of World Energy”