Trump at the shale industry convention : drilling for campaign money

From ToxicLeaks

Of course, everybody already knew that Donald Trump wouldn't be promoting an enhanced environmental protection, even though we need it more badly than ever. After calling global warming a hoax, after hinting that he “would love to have the strengths of Sarah Palin”, a notorious supporter of oil drilling, in his administration, after vowing to abolish the EPA, there wasn't much room for doubt anymore. However, Donald Trump has managed to make his undying support of fossil fuel energies even clearer at the shale industry convention. The speech he gave was a frightful tangle of misconceptions about the shale industry, that according to him, only is in a slump because of environmental regulations. And the most frightening thing is that, should he win the presidential election, he seems determined to tear down these regulations and make it even easier to drill for shale gas or shale oil, when the only sensible policy should be to ban these activities. This is clearly a hail mary move to gather campaign funding no matter what funders may ask him. And that's what makes him a truly dangerous candidate in this election.

Trump among his shale industry “friends”[edit | edit source]

The shale gas and oil industry has made it a habit to gather once a year to talk shop and showcase new technologies that are designed to extract more and more profit from the earth, no matter how big the harm to the environment, the water quality and eventually, the health of the people living around the wells. And this year, the Shale Insight conference had a special guest to present to its 8000 attendees, republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and his retinue of republican friends from state senates and house of representatives. This was the perfect opportunity for Trump to drive home yet again his point that the U.S needed more fossil fuels and less regulations. And he seemed genuinely thrilled to be there : "It's great to be with so many of my friends" was the opening line of his speech ! Trump claimed that "America is sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy”, and that there existed "some $50 trillion in shale energy, oil reserves and natural gas on federal lands, in addition to hundreds of years of coal energy reserves.” And he obviously called to drill for that oil and gas, and to mine that coal, even though the vast majority of scientists agree that doing so will unavoidably lead to global warming and consequences impossible to contemplate ! He naturally hammered the EPA, framed as the main source of the difficulties of the shale industry : "With the EPA, with all of the difficulties you're going through." Really, he summed up his cynicism himself by adding : "Oh, you will like me so much."

Promising pro shale policies against campaign donations[edit | edit source]

Donald Trump's real goal was of course to get the shale industry companies to support his campaign by making hefty donations. And he was ready to go all the way to convince them. He pledged that he would have the U.S withdraw from the Paris deal and more. "We will eliminate the highly invasive 'waters of the US' [Clean Water Act] rule and scrap the $5 trillion Obama-Clinton climate action plan and the Clean Power Plan," he added. As if things weren't clear enough, he stated that he was "going to be cutting -- massively -- regulations". Promises that worry the scientific community more and more, and this drove 375 scientists, among which Stephen Hawking, to sign an open letter criticizing Donald Trump's stance on energy and the environment : "It is of great concern that the Republican nominee for President has advocated US withdrawal from the Paris Accord(...). The consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting -- for our planet's climate and for the international credibility of the United States." But they have little chance of being heard, given the strategy Trump has chosen. And that strategy is to protect fossil fuel energies at all costs, to the death (of the planet...) : "And you people know it's war."

A speech full of the typical Trumpian mistakes[edit | edit source]

And the scariest thing is that his ideas wouldn't even help the shale industry sector that much. First, of all, Trump seemed to think that the shale industry had been struggling for the last decade : "Do you know all of my life, that business has never had problems, but in the last seven or eight years, it's been tough". And he went on about all the jobs that lifting environmental regulations would create, at least 500,000 a year says he. But the reality is that the last decade has seen the shale industry reach its peaks, with the disastrous environmental impacts that we know : water pollution, cattle diseases and massive deaths, increased seismic activity close to shale oil and gas wells. And this illustrates a deep misunderstanding of the dynamics of the industry. The shale oil and gas corporations only began to struggle when the oil prices started to fall, which made shale gas and oil production too expensive to compete with conventional hydrocarbons. So, really, the slump of shale oil and gas has very little to do with environmental regulations (which are far from efficiently protecting the environment!), and taking out these regulations would have no chance of saving the industry and its jobs, let alone creating new ones. And the shale gas unions are not fooled by his gimmicks : the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66 refused to take part in the conference because they see Donald Trump as a total clown. Their business manager, Jim Kunz, stated that “There’s just no way that [he] was going to associate Local 66 with any function that gives this guy an avenue to speak”. A view shared by the rest of the industry, despite the polite applause Donald Trump received after his speech : Donald Trump has only received about $245,000 from individuals working in the oil and gas industry, whereas Mitt Romney had raised almost $6 million in 2012.

An unpredictable Republican candidacy is the worse possible news for the environment[edit | edit source]

The lack of enthusiasm of the shale industry to support Donald Trump should be good news. Anything that decreases the chance of a Republican victory in November makes it less likely that environmental regulations will be pulled. However, there is a significant downside. Donald Trump needs the campaign money so badly that he might start making more and more radical campaign promises to woe the fossil fuel donors. Who can predict what a desperate Trump might pledge to do to snatch the victory ? No doubt he will make it impossible for renewable energies to continue to develop, because they are the real reason fossil fuel demand is falling which in is the reason behind the collapse of the oil and gas prices. The Koch brothers have already started to warm up to Trump after criticizing him heavily in the primary, and they have a history of spreading lies and misinformation to prevent the development of alternative, clean sources of energy. They have for example led numerous wars against electric cars and now they seek to take down Elon Musk’s company Tesla. Another likely policy will be to destroy all health standards for water quality, which will make situations like the Flint water crisis commonplace in America. And when he has promised enough to bring us back decades in terms of environmental policies, the fossil fuel corporations and all their partners in environmental crime (chemicals, GMO, …) might decide a Donald Trump win is a once in a lifetime opportunity to permanently break the fragile and far from adequate environmental protection policies.

That is why the Trump candidacy is so dangerous. He has no moral compass on these issues, he will basically include in his program anything that he perceives to be tactically advantageous. And given how badly he needs funding for his campaign, Donald Trump is going to do anything it takes to win the hearts and purses of the fossil fuel industry. Even if it means wrecking the environment and jeopardizing the future of his country.