World Energy Blog

Is it Donald Trump or Hillary that provides the best Energy Policy?

7/12/2016 10:01:57 AM

As we head into the Republican and Democrat conventions the two candidates to be anointed are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Most have taken that for granted over the last few months and the drama of Hillary’s emails and Trump’s bombastic comments have done nothing to change that.

The conventions will address all kinds of issues, recent black on white violence, national security, immigration/illegal immigration and the great wall, gay marriage and the LGBT community, Islamic terrorism (at least on the republican side), climate change and of course the economy.  One topic that is probably NOT going to be addressed is energy.  After all, the price of gasoline is sub three dollars and our power bills are incredibly low, so why would this topic be important.

In the past we have attempted to analyze the energy positions of most of the candidates at one point or another.  Donald Trump is the great “negotiator” and like William Shatner for Priceline, Trump claims he is going to get us a better deal.  In his speech on Energy he proclaimed that he would reinvigorate the industry and strive toward independence.  Often he has described OPEC as a criminal organization and is ready to go to war. In fact he often has lamented that we went to war in the Middle East and came home with nothing. While he has not denied Climate Change, he hasn’t embraced it either. (Now Global Warming that’s a different story) He has said that he is in favor of fracking, the XL Pipeline and increasing all domestic sources of energy that make sense.

Hillary has stuck to the call for a low carbon solution, claiming that we need to reduce our reliance on hydrocarbon fuels, limit nuclear power and decrease or eliminate our use of coal as a power source.  To that end she has come out in favor of offshore wind and against the XL pipeline.  The Democrat party is even flirting with an anti fracking plank in their party’s platform.  Hillary seems to be in agreement with President Obama in seeing Climate Change as the greatest threat to our nation and has developed her approach to focus on that issue.  It’s easier than providing energy to the masses and fits better with her foundations funding sources. (But that’s a subject for another article)

So as voters/citizens/Americans which plan makes more sense?  Currently our emissions are down by more than 10%.  Methane emissions are dropping like a stone, we are the largest producer of renewable energy, we have the most electric cars on the road, our gasoline and diesel fuels are incredibly cheap and we have generated a surplus of natural gas.  So much so that we are building massive export facilities to export natural gas to the world.  It seems that at least for the moment we are doing just fine on Energy in our little part of the world.

But what looms over the horizon is really where we should be focused.  One of the biggest pressures on our energy prices is the economy.  Currently the economies of China, Russia, India and the United States are experiencing very little growth.  The labor participation rate in the US is at an all time low and the rates of under employment and unemployment are dangerously understated.  Our energy infrastructure is being dismantled as companies stop drilling, let employees go and equipment is stacked or destroyed. It is true that we have unlocked the mystery of how to get energy from source rocks, however, “Fractivists” and politicians are challenging that technology.  Recently the head of the IEA warned, “we should not be looking to China to push the price of oil but the United States.  If the United States economy goes through a growth period like the 80’s and 90’s we will see $100 dollar oil very soon.”

So, do we continue the policies of “less” pusued by President Obama under a Hillary presidency or pursue a policy of “more” under Trump. Reminding everyone that gasoline is sub three dollars and natural gas is at an all time low, we might be tempted to ask what is wrong with the current strategy?

In a nutshell, the policy of “less” dooms the United States to a position of servitude to the rest of the world.  Simply put, if we can keep the economy down and the labor force on the sidelines the current output of energy is sufficient.  However, if this is not the case and we want to bring those people back into the work force we need to consider how we will “power the economy” preferably without killing the planet.

Here is where I come down on the side of Donald Trump, not necessarily because I like Trump, but because I firmly believe that we need a policy of “more”.  More energy means more oil production in the United States, more natural gas, more wind energy, more solar technology, better conservation tactics and more infrastructure.  When Trump talks about a better deal on Energy and Climate he is talking about being able to negotiate with the rest of the world from a position of power.

If we are in a position to provide our own energy and export energy in the form of natural gas, coal and oil we become a direct competitor to Russia and OPEC giving us more influence in Western Europe, Asia and Latin America.  If we are once again seen as leaders in this space we will wield far more influence on China than our carrier group in the South China Sea can, while it’s hands are tied by a policy of non-intervention.

Over the last year we have seen OPEC make a direct attack on our shale oil producers and drive many of them out of business by providing our refiners a much cheaper alternative than buying our domestic crude.  OPEC has paid dearly for that attempt, with countries like Venezuela and Nigeria in desperate straights without the income provided by high oil prices.  In response, we have done nothing.  Except roll up our energy companies and eliminate our recent gains in production.  

While the policy of “less” is easier than a policy of “more” it should not be the choice of the American people.  We were meant to be free and we cannot be free while we are competing in a global economy with one hand tied behind our back.  Our goal should be to pick leaders that understand the importance energy plays in a global economy and how being able to provide our own energy and energy to our allies will be far better than “boots on the ground” in influencing policies around the world.  

To that end I believe the choice is simple, as we go to the ballot box in November we need to be picking leaders who will provide more and pursue a policy of “more” and those that insist on a policy of “less” should be left to join the those in the lowest labor participation rate in history.