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Sustainable Energy

Donald Trump’s “America-First Energy Plan” Shows He Knows Virtually Nothing About the Issue

In typical fashion, Trump used simplistic promises as the basis for lavish claims about revitalizing the energy industry and showering the American people with riches.

Speaking at an oil and gas conference in Bismarck, North Dakota, today, Donald Trump outlined a sketchy, at times contradictory energy plan that would scrap virtually all of President Barack Obama’s signature climate protection policies. Calling his vision the “America-First Energy Plan,” Trump said he would immediately cancel all of Obama’s executive orders designed to restrict the burning of fossil fuels and lower emissions from power plants. 

“We will rescind all these job-destroying President Obama executive actions,” Trump declared.

If elected president, he promised to lift restrictions on natural gas production using fracking, offshore oil drilling, and oil and gas production on federal lands. He would immediately cut off all U.S. funding for United Nations climate programs and cancel U.S. agreements under the Paris accord. Trump claimed his plan would eliminate America’s reliance on foreign sources of energy, restore the coal industry to its former glory, and avoid the loss of “millions of jobs and trillions of dollars” of wealth that would be destroyed under the climate change policies of his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

“Every dollar of energy we don’t explore here [in America] is a dollar that makes someone else rich,” Trump said.

But Trump’s proclamations don’t pass even cursory inspection. If Trump were to succeed in driving large increases in domestic natural gas production, for example, it would accelerate the decline in coal burning that has devastated the coal industry. He can’t save the coal industry, and he certainly can’t do it while pumping more gas.

Trump also mentioned that the number of active oil and gas rigs has dropped to 1989 levels—a fact he blamed on Obama’s policies. Rig counts have indeed dropped, but because of low oil and gas prices that are determined by global economics, not government overreach. (He also included a few howlers, claiming, for instance, that “America has one-and-a-half times as much oil as the combined proven reserves of all OPEC countries.” That is nowhere near true.)

And while Trump might be able to back out of the Paris agreement, that would likely not reverse the trends that have led domestic greenhouse gas emissions to fall to their lowest level in over a decade. Eliminating imports of foreign oil at a stroke is also outside the realm of realism. America currently imports about a quarter of the oil it consumes, and stanching that flow would require a drastic overhaul of trade policies, the likes of which few politicians of either party would support.

One thing Trump did not mention directly in his speech was climate change. In 2012 he tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

In less than 140 characters, Trump hurled a half-baked conspiracy theory and demonized a foreign country to make it look as though American interests are under threat, all to support a simplistic, ignorant assertion: “global warming is a myth.” Unfortunately, that level of sophistication was on display throughout Trump’s remarks today as well.

(Read more: "Carbon Dioxide Emissions Keep Falling in the U.S.")

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