Yesterday afternoon I endured the live stream of Donald Trump's "energy policy" speech from the stage at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in North Dakota. Of course, Trump's speech was not a speech on comprehensive energy policy at all, but more of his now typical pandering to the audience in front of him by stringing together slogans lifted directly from conservative orthodoxy. Between his usual sophomoric insults and name calling, he set out a long list of executive actions he would supposedly take to implement his "policy".
Unfortunately, his speech contained no substance, even while calling for an "America First" policy which called for our country to slip back into a dark past of polluted water, fouled air, and deadly work conditions. By Trumperizing the McCain/Palin campaign's "Drill, Baby, Drill" slogan from 2008, his ramblings were nothing more than a caricature of what has already been proven to be a short sighted and certainly unwise approach to energy policy. One need only recall the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010 to understand the danger of unbridled and unregulated pursuit of hydrocarbons.
During his rambling soliloquy, Trump promised to open all federal lands to oil and gas exploration, including the offshore on both coasts as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He proposed renewing the Keystone XL pipeline, but with the caveat that the US government get a kickback for approving it. His only reference to renewable energy was to claim that wind turbines kill a "million birds a year" as well as "hundreds of eagles". He also declared that he was going to single-handedly save the coal industry and reopen closed mines, on which he blamed the President and Hillary Clinton for said closings.
I'll be blunt about this spectacle from North Dakota. No serious person would mistake Trump's recitation of simplistic slogans and riffing about his latest political enemies as representing anything close to actual policy. It was stupid. Childish. Uninformed. Amateurish. Embarrassing. Pandering. Even those of us in the oil and gas industry know that Trump's declarations are not only unachievable, but are truly absurd. He's going to save coal mining jobs by reopening uneconomic mines. Obama and Hillary are to blame for low oil and gas prices, though they are actually caused by unbelievably effective innovations in drilling and completion technologies that have caused a huge glut of new oil production. His priorities are clean air and clean water, accomplished by unilaterally repealing clean air and clean water legislation. Listening to Trump's supposed polices is like reading an article in the Onion.
On the face, Trump is not a serious candidate. Some believe he's "bold and independent", some adore him as an unapologetic reformer, and some believe that he is saying what they are thinking. None of those impressions of Trump are accurately depicted. Trump has proven over and over that he is playing US voters for chumps, appealing to the worst of their predisposed bigotry and ignorance. Trump's energy speech confirms that conclusion, and represents no actual policy declaration whatsoever.
One thing, though, is clear...Trump should change his campaign slogan from "Make America Great Again" to "Take America Back to 1940". That's actually what his declarations actually propose.
And that is not progress.