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Donald Trump Promises Oil and Gas Industry Big But Skepticism Remains

Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, speaks during the Marcellus Shale Coalition conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016.
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, speaks during the Marcellus Shale Coalition conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continued his effort to woo the oil and gas industry in a speech Thursday with a promise to slash regulations and cut taxes.

The speech, delivered before the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh, comes as Trump tries to shore up support in the oil and gas industry. Working-class employees in that sector, located in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio, are essential pieces of a Trump victory in November.

Trump has promised the upper management of energy companies essentially everything they could want. He said Thursday that he would repeal a slew of regulations including the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the ban on new coal mining leases on federal land and other regulations. (Notably, Trump did not mention the Paris Agreement which will likely take effect this year making it difficult for him to scuttle it).

“It will be a future of conservation, prosperity and great success, for all the people in this room and all the people you employ,” he said Thursday.

Some energy executives have supported Trump enthusiastically, including businessman Harold Hamm, who is thought to be Trump’s chief advisor on energy matters. But, for a Republican, the lack of widespread support has been visible. A recent Wall Street Journal report found that oil and gas employees have donated significantly more to Hillary Clinton than Trump. That’s a remarkable turnaround after years of staunch support for Republicans in the industry.

There are a number of reasons why they may remain skeptical of Trump’s promises. For one, he has bungled the fundamentals in public settings. Trump suggested this past summer that he believes local communities can decide whether they want to ban fracking on their own, an idea anathema to the industry. He backtracked, but the damage was done.

Trump’s plan at time also appears removed from certain basic industry realities. He has promised to revitalize the coal industry, while also pushing for more oil and natural gas drilling. But achieving both of those ends could prove difficult given that cheap natural gas is precisely what has led to a decline in coal in the first place. Presumably, more natural gas drilling would only reduce its price, making it even more competitive with coal.

More clear in Trump’s comments on energy is what he opposes: government support for renewable energy and measures to protect the environment.

“My environmental agenda will be guided with true specialists in conservation,” he said Thursday, “not those with radical political agendas that are putting our country behind the eight ball.”

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