Saturday, December 30, 2017

Trump's Energy Success - By Jeffrey Folks

Just six months ago, the Trump administration was attacked for its "slow start."  It was said to be "in disarray," in "chaos," "at war" with itself, and incapable of governing.  Now the list of successes has piled up, making it clear that, if the trend continues, President Trump will become one of our more important presidents.  Far from being a do-nothing administration, the Trump team is a White House on steroids.
One of the president's major successes is in the area of energy policy.  Along with energy secretary Rick Perry, the president is overseeing the recovery of the American energy sector from the low point it hit under the Obama administration.  By a combination of executive orders totally restrictiong drilling on federal lands and EPA assaults on fracking and coal-mining, including a total ban on mountaintop-mining, Obama prosecuted a "war" not just on coal, but on fossil fuels generally.
Now America has become the largest producer of oil and gas and a major exporter of natural gas.  The U.S. now produces significantly more hydrocarbons than second-place Russia and twice as much as Saudi Arabia.  As coal-mining is restored, pipelines are laid, and new wells are drilled, hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created across the economy, not just in drilling and mining, but in support services.
The effect on the economy is already being felt.  According to, a leading employment recruitment site, oil jobs are making a "huge comeback," with "100,000 new jobs by 2018."  And these are high paying jobs: "the average pay of the oil and gas industry is 85% higher than the national average."  Each new job in the energy field creates others in areas like steel production, rig technology, transportation, and general services.  And the money earned in these high paying fields circulates through the economy.
With the passage of a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allowing oil exploration in ANWR, the president has another success.  The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contains vast reserves of recoverable oil currently estimated at10.4 billion barrels.  Development has been blocked by misguided and ill informed opposition from environmental groups.  Now, with great care for the environment, oil companies will have the opportunity to produce vast amounts of energy while drilling only 3% of ANWR.
According to a report from the House Committee on Natural Resources, "total governmental revenue" from ANWR drilling will run $440 billion.  ANWR alone will create between 55,000 and 130,000 new high paying jobs.
It is not just ANWR.  By removing unnecessary restrictions on fracking and by opening other federal lands to drilling, President Trump is promoting energy independence rather than standing in its way.  He has opened federal lands for drilling, including land in two national monuments in southern Utah.  Vast federal lands in the Western U.S. offer other opportunities.
In April, the president signed an executive order reversing Obama's ban on new offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic.  Current estimates show that almost 90 billion barrels of oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie under the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.  Those estimates have a way of being revised upward, especially for regions such as these that have not been explored with modern technology due to past restrictions.  Offshore drilling has the potential to produce ten times the number of jobs and government revenue projected for ANWR.  At the high end, that would be 1,300,000 high paying jobs and $4.4 trillion in state and federal revenue.
Under President Obama, American coal-mining suffered a near-death experience.  Now, under EPA director Scott Pruitt, the Trump administration is taking steps to restore coal to its rightful place in America's energy supply mix.  Though it will take years to complete, the reversal of Obama's Clean Power Plan that began back in October will take government out of the frame of "picking winners and losers."  Coal will still have to compete with natural gas, but at least it will be allowed to compete.
The president's accomplishments in the field of energy policy are not limited to fossil fuels.  His Energy Department recently committed $100 million to promoting Transformative Energy Projects intended to spur early-stage innovators.  The department continues to promote alternative energy sources and energy conservation, important contributors to energy independence.  Energy conservation in particular can go a long way toward making America energy-independent.
With the opening of new lands to fracking and conventional drilling and the restoration of mining in the Appalachian region, the energy sector has gone from moribund to robust practically overnight.  One of the president's first actions wasthe elimination of the Steam Protection Rule, which imposed crippling burdens of regulation on the industry.  As a result, production has begun to increase.  
As the U.S. Energy Information Agency's annual "Outlook" makes clear, the future for American energy production is bright.  The Outlook models future production across a wide range of different scenarios, and it concludes that the U.S. "is projected to become a net energy exporter by 2026" in its Reference Case projections but that it may do so earlier under three side cases.  After 2026, the scale of exports expands rapidly in all cases.
Perhaps the most consequential of the president's actions in the field of energy is his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.  While withdrawal from the accord does not have significant immediate consequences, its long-term effect is great.  Its most important effect will be to reduce the possibility of a deluge of environmental lawsuits based largely on the agreement signed by President Obama.  These lawsuits would have blocked American energy production to gratify a self-appointed global environmental elite – at the expense of the American people.    
The president's accomplishments are many, but energy stands out.  America is now the world's premiere producer of fossil fuels.  In just one year, we have gone from a dismal future, in which the government planned to shut down fossil fuels almost entirely by mid-century, to a nation on the cusp of total energy independence.  "Make America Great Again" was not just a clever campaign slogan; it is a reality in the field of energy production, as in so many other areas under President Trump.        
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).