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Policy Analysis

November 13th, 2016
Surface Coal Mine in Wyoming

Surface Coal Mine in Wyoming

A long time ago, when I had free time and coherent thoughts, I wrote a car blog.  Somehow, that effort died out – precisely four years ago.  But in light of the recent election of Donald Trump, I thought I’d put thoughts down on …paper?…

I’m going to try to be forward-looking.  There are tons of postmortems on the election, why Trump won, why Hillary lost, etc.  (I think the most astute I’ve heard is , “The Democrats nominated an elitist during a populist election.”)  To me, it comes down to the fact that (1) Hillary has likability and trustworthiness issues, and whether they are real or perceived is irrelevant.  I, for one, am probably 98% aligned with her on policy issues, and I think it would have been incredible to have had the first woman elected president.  But even I was never thrilled with her nomination.  I can’t articulate why.  I just wasn’t.  (I voted for Bernie in the primary, for the record.)  Even though she was probably one of the most qualified candidates ever to run for president, people hate her.  …And she has email problems…  But like I said, there have been plenty of postmortems, and I won’t belabor it.  I do hope the Clintons take this opportunity to exit public service for good.

And it also comes down to the fact that, (2) Donald Trump realized that there was a path to victory by fomenting hatred, fear, and bigotry.  I’ve seen the reports immediately post-election of racial/religious/sexual harassment being incited “in the name of” Trump.  I hold out hope that these are just made-up stories to exaggerate the horribleness of a Trump presidency.  But it looks more and more like they’re not.  I still cannot understand how someone who brags about being able to “grab women by the pussy” just because he is a “star”; who calls Mexicans rapists, drug-dealers, and murderers; who wants to ban Muslims; who believes climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese; who said “I love war”, and questioned why we don’t use our nuclear weapons; and who revealed himself to be an incompetent, unqualified, disgraceful piece of human garbage during the campaign – how so many people can look past “him”, believe he will be a “voice for the forgotten”, and cast their vote.  Maybe I shouldn’t worry.  I’m an upper-middle-class heterosexual white male, and I will be fine.  It’s my Muslim friends, my gay friends, my lesbian friends, my black friends, my Latino friends, my self-employed friends that only were able to get health insurance because of the ACA… it’s *my friends* that I worry about.

Back to looking forward.  Let’s give Donald the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s assume he is so clever that he realized that the best way to beat Hillary was to use hateful rhetoric to encourage approximately half of the voting public to support him.  As they say, candidates tend to moderate once they switch from campaigning to governing.  Let’s assume everything he’s said and done was simply to gain the Presidency, and we don’t need to worry now that he’ll hold office.  He’ll surround himself with smart people.  (Caricatures like Rudy Giuliani?  Chris Christie?  Sarah Palin?)  Let’s look at his policies, instead of his rhetoric.  And since I work in the energy sector, let’s look at his energy policy.  You can find it here.

His vision is as follows:

  • Make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protect clean air and clean water. We will conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources. We will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country.  This is smart.  I can’t argue with it.  Energy independence, jobs, clean air, clean water, natural resource conservation.  Sounds great!  He even throws in the promise of “vast new wealth”.  We’ll all be rich!
  • Declare American energy dominance a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States.  He’s taking it to the next level here.  Not only energy independence, but energy dominance.  Details are sparse, but there’s still not much to argue with.
  • Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.  This is where I start to worry.  His energy revolution is based in hydrocarbons (i.e., the traditional energy sector).  Shale, oil, and natural gas.  Have you ever stood in an oil field?  Seen an offshore oil-rig?  Flown over a mountain-top removal mine?  Seen the devastation that extracting these resources causes?  It’s ugly, to the point of being nightmarish.  Also, there is no such thing as clean coal.  There are cleaner ways to use it, but none of them are clean.
  • Become, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests.  Despite the questionable prose, there’s not much to argue with here, either.  We’ve been on our way to producing as much petroleum as we consume for a while, but we’re not there yet.  (As of 2015, we produce 12.7 million barrels, but consume 19.11 million barrels, per day.)  This statement does suggest an ignorance of the global nature of the oil industry.  Despite the President-elect’s stated preference for isolationism, oil is still traded on a global market, and the prices of the crude the U.S. produces are subject to global supply/demand (which is easily manipulated by OPEC).
  • Open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.  More support for devastating federal lands through exploration, extraction, mining, and production.
  • Encourage the use of natural gas and other American energy resources that will both reduce emissions but also reduce the price of energy and increase our economic output.  Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel-based energy source we have, and transitioning from coal to natural gas will indeed reduce emissions. The details on how this will reduce energy prices and increase economic output are not provided.
  • Rescind all job-destroying Obama executive actions. Mr. Trump will reduce and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production, creating at least a half million jobs a year, $30 billion in higher wages, and cheaper energy.  Ah, yes, all those job-destroying regulations.  Those that ensure the clean air and clean water that were mentioned in the first bullet of the vision.  Again, Donald is smart here, promising $30-billion in higher wages to make us rich.  And he is right about cheaper energy – if you don’t have to worry about environmental regulations (which is what he means by job-killing executive actions), you can save the energy companies lots of money in the short-term.

The vision statement goes on to state how Obama and Clinton are both anti-American-energy, anti-coal, anti-American-manufacturing, and anti-jobs, with ideas of “unleashing the EPA to control every aspect of our lives.”  He provides supporting evidence through citations consisting largely of Trump campaign press-releases.

The vision includes a 100-day plan that amounts to a boon for the oil and gas industry.  It describes the millions of jobs and billions of dollars that will be shared by Americans.  (“This is your treasure, and you – the American People – are entitled to share in the riches.”)  Part of this is true – many hydrocarbon-based jobs could indeed be created, since raping the earth is a labor-intensive endeavor.  As for the sharing in the newfound oil and gas wealth – I would assert that it’s the oil and gas companies, not the American public, who will reap the rewards.

I’m trying to look past the ugliness of the campaign, to the reality of what the new administration will bring.  And I’m focusing on things about which I know.  (Energy, for example.) Unfortunately, in looking forward at policy proposals, the campaign is turning out to seem not that bad.

 

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