Donald Trump outlined an energy plan he’s calling “America First” on Thursday, using a speech in North Dakota to promote oil, natural gas and coal for the country’s future.
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee's plan, which shares its name with his foreign policy platform, is as much about helping the fossil fuel sector as it is about fighting what he called “job-killing” policies from the Obama administration, which he says Democrat Hillary Clinton would only further as president.
It aligns closely with longstanding priorities of Republican policymakers and avoids forgoing GOP orthodoxy like the candidate has done in other policy areas.
“American energy dominance will be declared a strategic, economic and foreign policy goal of the United States,” Trump said in the speech at a petroleum conference in Bismarck, N.D. “It’s about time.”
He said the country needs to better use its fossil fuel stores, resources he said President Obama has locked away.
“We will become and stay totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests,” Trump said.
“At the same time, we will work with our [Persian] Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti-terrorism strategy,” he said of countries that supply oil to the United States. “We’ll work with them because we have to knock out terrorism.”
He said he’d allow far more oil, gas and coal extraction on federal land and offshore.
Trump’s speech was mostly scripted and read from a prompter, something he does rarely and usually only for policy-focused speeches.
He pledged to save the coal industry, though gave few specifics.
Trump said he would ask TransCanada Corp. to resubmit its application to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline through America’s central states. Obama rejected a permit for the pipeline in November, but Trump said he would approve it if the U.S. gets a share of the Canadian corporation's profits in return.
“Why not? We’re making it possible. Let’s take a piece of the action for you folks, you know, lower your taxes a little bit more,” he said.
He also briefly mentioned alternative energy sources, like wind and solar power, but said they shouldn’t be promoted at the expense of “other forms of energy that right now are working much better.”
Trump slammed Obama for energy and environmental policies he says handcuffed the American energy industry.
He went through several Obama-era environmental decisions — mentioning his “stupid” climate rule for power plants and his decision to limit oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean and on public land — and said they had only limited what was already dramatic growth in several energy sectors.
Clinton, he said, would be even worse. He reminded the audience about her promise to impose a strict test for future hydraulic fracturing and her March statement that she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business" with her environmental policies, a statement for which she apologized.
November’s presidential election is a “choice between sharing in this great energy wealth or sharing the poverty promised by Hillary Clinton,” he said.
“Obama has done everything he can to get in the way of American energy, for whatever reason,” Trump said. “If 'Crooked' Hillary Clinton is in charge, things will get much worse, believe me.”
Any future regulations, Trump said, would be judged on whether they are good for American workers.
“If it doesn’t pass this test, this rule will not be, under any circumstances, approved,” he said.
But Trump didn’t leave the environment behind completely, promising to protect clean air and clean water.
Trump’s speech is part of a push to refine his policy platform ahead of a general election campaign.
The Associated Press said Thursday that he has passed the 1,237 delegate mark, enough to clinch the Republican Party's nomination this summer.
The fossil fuel industry is typically supportive of Republicans, and Trump began courting its support over the past few weeks.
Some industry officials, though, have said he needs to expand his platform beyond surface-level promises to, for example, help coal miners in distressed parts of the country.
Trump and his backers, including Rep. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican who has advised him on energy policy, have said strong energy sector support will help Trump in the general election.
“I can’t imagine how [Clinton] could possibly do well in places like Pennsylvania,” Trump said at a press conference before his speech, again noting Clinton’s remark about coal miners.
“She certainly didn’t do very well in West Virginia. I think she made a big mistake, and I think she’s catering to certain people.”
Environmental groups declared that Trump’s speech showed his administration would be disastrous for the environment.
“Trump's divisive language has made him a shocking candidate, but today he just pandered to the fossil fuel industry with a carbon-copy energy plan that could have been lifted directly from [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell,” David Willett, spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement.
“As Big Polluters’ new best friend, Trump’s 'plan' is pro-drilling, anti-EPA and is dangerous to our clean air and water. It does nothing to arrest our rapidly changing climate and the extreme weather already impacting Americans,” he added.
“Today's speech from Donald Trump reads like a love letter to big corporate polluters and a Dear John letter to our future,” said Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmentalist and Democratic donor.
“Trump’s energy policies would accelerate climate change, protect corporate polluters who profit from poisoning our air and water, and block the transition to clean energy that is necessary to strengthen our economy and protect our climate and health,” he said.