Where the 2016 Candidates Stand on Energy Issues: Donald Trump

This post is the first in a series of blogs examining where 2016 candidates for President or Governor of North Carolina stand on key energy issues.  SACE Staffer Angela Garrone co-authored this blog post. Note: The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Links to reports, candidate websites and outside sources are provided as citizen education tools. 

As the Republican National Convention wrapped up in Cleveland last night, Donald Trump officially became the Republican party’s nominee for President of the United States. Since the moment Mr. Trump announced his candidacy, a hurricane-like media storm surrounding his campaign made it difficult to determine what policy changes, if any, Mr. Trump would support as President. While this blog is not meant to be a comprehensive assessment of Mr. Trump’s stance on energy policies, we hope it provides a general overview for evaluating where Mr. Trump may stand on issues of interest to energy-focused voters: coal, climate change, renewables, efficiency, natural gas, nuclear and drilling.

In May, Mr. Trump outlined his “America First Energy Plan,” noting that “we can pursue all forms of energy” to make the United States energy independent and that “America’s incredible energy potential remains untapped.” While his energy plan has not resulted in a coherent energy policy platform, Mr. Trump urges voters to “believe me” in his promises that his proposal ”will make America Wealthy Again” through these key actions:

  • We’re going to rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions including the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.
  • We’re going to save the coal industry and other industries threatened by Hillary Clinton’s extremist agenda.
  • I’m going to ask Trans Canada to renew its permit application for the Keystone Pipeline.
  • We’re going to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas.
  • We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies. These technologies create millions of jobs with a smaller footprint than ever before.
  • We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.
  • Any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped. We will also eliminate duplication, provide regulatory certainty, and trust local officials and local residents.
  • Any future regulation will go through a simple test: is this regulation good for the American worker? If it doesn’t pass this test, the rule will not be approved.

Trump and Coal 

“They love it,” Trump said of those who work in coal mines. “We’re going to bring it back and we’re going to help those people because that’s what they want to do. The market forces are going to do whatever they do. All I’m going to do is free up the coal.”

Trump has repeatedly promised to “free up the coal” and save this struggling industry that faces both economic competition from cheaper natural gas (also called shale gas) as well as new regulations designed to reduce air toxins and carbon emissions linked to climate change. Despite the fact that dozens of coal companies have declared bankruptcy in recent years, Mr. Trump promises to resurrect coal mines, create mining jobs and open coal mining on federal lands. Mr. Trump also promises to repeal and rescind all “job-destroying Obama executive actions including the Climate Action Plan,” which would preserve the energy status quo.

 

Trump and Clean Air Contradictions  

“75% of our rules and regulations are bad for us,” Trump declared during his energy policy speech in May, but he has also espoused the importance of  ”beautiful, clean air.”

The New York Daily News ran an interesting piece in June citing improved air quality in New York City as one of the primary reasons that Donald Trump the person and Trump Industries the business were able to make so much money in the New York City real estate market in the last few decades. The columnist, Charles Komanoff, notes that if New York still had poor air quality, like it did in the 1970s, then it would have been much harder to court investors and residents to invest in and live in polluted urban areas, particular in high end real estate.

 

Trump and Climate Change

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” – Donald Trump in a Tweet posted on November 6, 2012. 

Mr. Trump is among many in his political party who reject mainstream climate science and has called climate change both a “con job” and a “hoax.”

Despite his public rejection of global warming, its causes and impacts, Politico reports that Trump filed an application in May of this year to construct a sea wall to protect a golf course property in Ireland from “global warming and its effects” and these same risings seas pose a significant threat to his considerable real estate holdings in New York City and Florida.

In Mr. Trump’s energy proposal, he promises to “repeal and rescind the Climate Action Plan, cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs” upon his election. These actions would likely derail global efforts to reduce carbon emissions in order to limit the impacts of global warming. The 2014 U.S.-China climate agreement as well as the U.S. carbon reduction pledge offered during the Paris climate talks last December were two of the key factors in securing carbon reduction commitments from the majority of the world’s countries to get serious about reducing carbon pollution and mitigating the damage caused by climate change.

 

Trump and Wind Energy

“Wind is a problem. It is very, very expensive and it doesn’t work without subsidies,” said Trump addressing an oil industry conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in 2016.

Although Mr. Trump has said he supports pursuing “all forms of energy,” he has qualified that goal by saying that government shouldn’t favor any energy source over the other and his record on wind energy is notably hostile. In 2013, Trump launched what would become a protracted legal battle to halt construction of an offshore wind farm within sight of his Scottish golf resort. During this battle, which he eventually lost, Trump referred to the £200m development project as “the Scottish government’s dangerous experiment with wind energy,” despite the fact that Scotland harnesses more than 38 percent of its current energy needs from wind and other renewable sources.

Then in 2016, Donald Trump offered a more general critique of wind energy noting that wind turbines are “killing all the eagles” despite studies showing that tall buildings, like those built by real estate developers such as Mr. Trump, cause much higher rates of bird mortality than wind turbines do.

 

Trump and Solar Energy

“Solar, as you know, hasn’t caught on because, I mean, a solar panel takes 32 years — it’s a 32-year payback. Who wants a 32-year payback? The fact is, the technology is not there yet,” Trump in 2012.

Mr. Trump appears neither hostile nor supportive of solar energy, but he continues to offer outdated renewable energy statistics as a way of downplaying solar’s market potential.  As recently as May of this year, Mr. Trump declared “I know a lot about solar,” and said that solar and wind are “very expensive” with an estimated 30-year payback time, despite industry data that suggests five to eight years as a typical payback period (with three to 15 years at the outside). He has also failed to acknowledge that the 10 states with the most renewable energy feeding their grids have lower electric rates than the 10 states with the least – a contradiction against his claims that wind and solar are very expensive.

 

Trump and Energy Efficiency

After carefully reviewing Mr. Trump’s America First Energy Plan and searching for past statements on energy efficiency, it appears that he has not yet stated a position on this energy topic, which is unfortunate since energy efficiency is both (1) a key strategy for addressing climate change and (2) reducing energy costs and consumption. We are hopeful that Mr. Trump and his campaign will take a closer look at energy efficiency as an energy resource to promote energy security so that current and future generations are less dependent on imported fuels as well as to ensure that we all have cleaner air to breathe since energy efficiency helps reduce the smog and global warming pollutants emitted from fossil-fueled power plants.

 

Trump and Natural Gas

“Fracking will lead to American energy independence. With the price of natural gas continuing to drop, we can be at a tremendous advantage,” – Donald Trump in Tweet posted on May 3, 2012.

A vocal supporter of hydraulic fracking, Mr. Trump pledged that he would convince New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo to permit fracking in 2015. According to the blog The Fuse: Trump reiterated his support for fracking in New York in a speech in March 2016, stating, “Did you know, if they fracked in New York, New York would lower its taxes, would have no debt, would have made a fortune. Instead, Pennsylvania took all the money. They took those beautiful, beautiful natural resources, they took them out.” In his May energy speech, Mr. Trump claimed that, “the oil and natural gas industry supports 10 million high-paying Americans jobs and can create another 400,000 new jobs per year.” However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that fewer than 200,000 people were employed in the oil and gas extraction industry as of May 2016, indicating that the industry employs far fewer Americans that Mr. Trump suggests.

 

Trump and Nuclear

“I’m in favor of nuclear energy, very strongly in favor of nuclear energy,” Trump said. “If a plane goes down people keep flying. If you get into an auto crash people keep driving,” said Trump in a Fox News interview in 2011.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Japan Fukushima nuclear disaster, Trump stated that “nuclear is a way we get what we have to get, which is energy.” It is important to acknowledge that Trump has declared that the permitting process for nuclear power needs to be reformed, saying “we have to be careful” because nuclear power “does have issues.”

 

Trump and Drilling

[We're going to] “lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas. We’re going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies.” – Donald Trump Press Release, May 2016

In an effort to “pursue all forms of energy,” Mr. Trump has noted he will remove all restrictions on drilling for fossil fuels on American land, including lifting historical moratoriums on energy production on federally owned lands – like our nation’s natural parks. He promises to ask Trans-Canada to re-apply for its permit for the rejected Keystone Pipeline, which proposed to move tar sands oil in massive pipes through the Midwest down to the Gulf Coast, and he supports drilling off the Atlantic coast, which was halted by the Obama Administration earlier this year.

 

Summary

Although coal, oil and natural gas all feature prominently in Mr. Trump’s proposed energy plan, he fails to address the risks and liabilities of these traditional energy sources – namely air pollution, volatile fuel costs, increased water use, and climate change. Failure to address impacts due to climate change – notably rising sea levels and hotter, drier summers - may have profound implications here in the Southeast such as impacted coastlines and diminished agricultural yields. Although Mr. Trump speaks of reducing America’s dependence on foreign energy sources, his plan offers no mention of policies such as increasing corporate automotive fuel economy standards, which would clearly reduce all fuel consumption, including that from foreign imports. Mr. Trump also fails to mention or offer a position on energy efficiency - one of our most important energy sources here in the United States because appropriate programs and measures would allows us to reduce the amount of energy required to provide the same products and services.

In short, Mr. Trump’s proposed energy plan relies heavily on developing oil, gas and coal while largely ignoring or even disputing the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency resources. SACE staff will be watching closely when Mr. Trump debates energy policy with the Democratic nominee Sec. Hillary Clinton in one of the upcoming presidential debates this fall and encourage voters to look for other blogs in this series over the coming months.

 

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