Donald Trump is poised to give his first substantive energy policy speech in North Dakota, a state eager to hear how he can help the industry recover from the worst downturn in a generation.
The presumptive Republican presidential candidate is scheduled to speak Thursday as part of the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck. North Dakota rose to become the second-largest oil-producing U.S. state on the back of soaring output from unlocking shale-rock formations. In the past two years, it has found itself part of a wrenching bust that has dented industry coffers, forced thousands of job losses and idled scores of drilling rigs.
While Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s front-runner, has called for renewable energy to eventually power all U.S. homes and once said she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Trump has said he doesn’t believe in climate change and criticized President Barack Obama’s coal regulations.
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“Mr. Trump will draw a contrast between Hillary Clinton’s plan to eliminate millions of good-paying energy jobs — including countless union jobs — and Mr. Trump’s plan to add millions of new jobs for America’s workers,” Stephen Miller, a Trump senior policy adviser, said in a statement to Bloomberg Politics.
The unemployment rate in North Dakota, while still among the lowest in the country at 3.2 per cent, has climbed this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Trump probably isn’t in political danger in North Dakota, where Republican Mitt Romney beat Obama by 20 percentage points in 2012, but the speech gives him the opportunity to burnish his energy credentials before an audience that includes thousands of workers in one of the world’s most technologically complex industries.
“The Trump agenda is only going to make America great again for corporate polluters, which is why Americans need to come together to defeat him — and his Republican allies — in November,” Tom Steyer, the billionaire president of NextGen Climate, a San Francisco-based environmental advocacy group, said in a statement.
Representative Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican who’s been advising the candidate, told reporters in Washington Wednesday that Trump will make a “substantial policy” speech, focusing on oil, natural gas and national security as it relates to energy. Cramer has previously called for investigating the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for unfair trading practices. He provided the candidate with a four-page memo on energy policy ahead of the Bismarck event, he told Bloomberg BNA’s Ari Natter.
“We anticipate further criticism of OPEC producers — not just Saudi Arabia, but also Iran — and ongoing support for renewed domestic energy production,” Kevin Book, managing director of Washington-based ClearView Energy Partners LLC, said in a research note to clients.
While oil and gas industry executives and politicians in North Dakota this week say they’re optimistic about the future as oil prices edge higher, the reality for the state is stark. North Dakota had a record 1,523 inactive oil wells at the end March, the latest date available, according to the state’s Department of Mineral Resources.
Lynn Helms, the department’s director, said he wants Trump to address regulation, energy exports and competition with OPEC nations and Russia.
The presumptive Republican nominee has already won the backing of oil magnate T. Boone Pickens, shale billionaire Harold Hamm and coal company Chief Executive Officer Robert Murray, who has repeatedly sued the Obama administration for climate regulations that affect his industry. Trump will overturn regulations that are hurting mining companies, Murray said.
“Mr. Trump demonstrated to me that he cares very much about maintaining the reliability of our electric power grid and preserving low-cost electricity in this country,” the head of Murray Energy Corp. said in a phone interview Tuesday. “He cares very much about coal miners and coal-mining jobs.”
The learning curve has been steep for Trump. Murray met with the candidate on May 9 and asked him to support U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas, known in the industry as LNG. Trump agreed and then asked, “What’s LNG?” Murray said in a May 23 speech, according to SNL Financial.
Rolling back Obama’s coal policies may happen through the courts and any major energy reforms would require Congressional legislation, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
“Presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have shared radically different visions for the future of U.S. energy production,” Cheryl Wilson, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, wrote in a May 12 note. “But in all likelihood, the next president will only marginally change energy policy.”