What is Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump’s stance on issues surrounding the energy industry?
By Samantha Kershisnik
For the DC Herald
Donald Trump recently gave a press conference and speech at the Williston Basin Oil and Petroleum Conference in Bismarck North Dakota on Thursday May 26th. I was one of several local reporters that had the tremendous opportunity to attend the Trump press conference and rally. I also attended the Williston Basin Oil and Petroleum Conference that ran for a few days prior and I will report on that in a separate article. That being said, here, in this article I am going to try to focus on the issues that pertained specifically to the oil industry and economy. If my readers wish to watch the full press conference in its entirety or the rally following the conference they may view them on www.YouTube.com and search “Donald Trump full press conference and rally in Bismarck North Dakota”.
As we were waiting for Mr. Trump to enter the conference room, a long line of people entered the room and began to line up behind the podium. We soon learned that Donald Trump had just clinched the official Republican presidential candidate. The men and women lined up in front of us were the North Dakota delegates that secured the republican front runner his official spot.
Mr. Trump entered the conference room shortly after the delegates. He immediately walked down the line and shook each delegates hand and even hugged a couple of them. He then stepped up to the podium and thanked all of the North Dakota delegates and Harold Hamm referring to Harold as “the king of energy”. Harold Hamm is best known for pioneering the development of large shale oil resources of the Bakken formation. Mr. Trump answered as many questions as time would allow prior to his speech. He called on the bigger news stations that were represented there such as CNN and NBC but he also acknowledged several local reporters. Jim Acosta who does all of the live political reporting for CNN was seated to my left and all of the reporters that travel with Mr. Trump from NBC were seated to my right. I was told by the NBC people that Trump had flown all of the traveling news reporters there on a private plane. Mr. Trump was asked about the usual suspects including his Muslim ban, Hillary Clinton, and if he would be willing to debate Bernie Sanders. When asked about debating Bernie Sanders Mr. Trump said “I would love to debate Bernie” but it would have to be for a big donation (at least over ten million dollars) to a charitable organization; possibly one that caters to women’s health issues. He pointed out that he has done very well in the past debates he has been involved in on the campaign trail. However, he does not consider himself a debater, but first and foremost a job creator.
After we got through the gossip, he began to answer questions regarding energy. He was first asked about what role the government should have regarding regulation of the energy (I will note that when Mr. Trump speaks, he talks very fast and quoting him is difficult, so bare with me). Mr. Trump stated that “I think the federal government should get out the way” also that “The federal government has put the coal mines out of business”. He spoke about the miners being incredible people and that he recently visited a coal mine where he asked a miner why he didn’t just go into a different profession. The miner told Mr. Trump simply that “he loved going after coal”.
Next I was lucky enough to be called on by Mr. Trump. I asked him whether or not he would be supportive of building refineries here in the US so that we could become energy independent. He replied: ‘’I want to be energy independent, yes”. Mr. Trump also mentioned he “also wants to sell our energy to other places that don’t have the great natural resources that we have”.
After more questions about his Muslim Ban, we moved on to more questions regarding energy. A Wyoming reporter asked about his comments concerning bringing back coal mining jobs. She wanted to know how Mr. Trump, as president, would have the power to bring back the coal industry despite the impact of outside factors such as low natural gas prices, poor decision making choices made by coal companies and slowing international demand for coal. Mr. Trump added that intense government regulation was also a large part of the failure of the coal industry. He stated that, in his opinion, “Ultimately coal will be very inexpensive” and “you’ve gotta get rid of some of the regulations” and that government regulations “have gotten out of control” Mr. Trump spoke about his meetings with mine owners and how they had told him how over regulated they were. That coal companies had to hire many extra employees just to deal with all of the recent additional government rules and regulations. When asked about the market forces that surround the coal industry Mr. Trump replied “Market forces are going to be whatever they are. You know, all I can do is free up the coal, which I’m gona totally do. Get the companies back to work. Market forces, that’s something that I don’t want to get involved with.” He added “To me, market forces are a beautiful force.”
Mr. Trump then answered a couple questions from a reporter who came all the way from Canada. The reporter stated that the Key Stone XL problem caused a great disruption between US and Canadian relations. Would Mr. Trump approve the Key Stone XL project and would he invite Trans Canada to build it? Mr. Trump stated “Yes I would” he continued to say “Now I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be a better deal. See, Obama would approve it or not approve it. Hillary is probably not going to approve it, from what I understand. But I look at it differently. I will absolutely approve it one hundred percent but I want a better deal. Because listen, here is the difference between Harold Hamm and myself and you or let’s say, Obama, who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. Here’s the difference. I’m going to say, folks, we’re gonna let you build the pipeline but give us a piece. We are going to have to use eminent domain.” Mr. Trump goes on to explain “Without eminent domain that pipeline wouldn’t go ten feet” “I want the Keystone Pipeline but the people of the United States should be given a piece, a significant piece, of the profits.” He closes by saying “That’s how we are going to make our country rich again, just one way out of thousands. But that’s how we are going to make our country rich again and that is how we are going to make our country great again.” As we all know, Mr. Trump is nothing but a tremendous deal maker.
Next the same Canadian reporter asked Mr. Trump about the Upland Pipeline that Trans Canada wants to build that would begin in Williston North Dakota and go north into Canada about 200 miles. The Upland Pipeline would transport up to 300,000 barrels of oil daily, connecting with other pipelines including the Energy East pipeline across Canada. North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness called the Upland proposal a needed project that would move the state’s crude to “great markets” in eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. Mr. Trump replied “We will look at anything” “I’m not aware of that one but we will certainly look into it”.
Next a small business magazine reporter asked Mr. Trump what he believes are the keys to economic vitality. Mr. Trump responded that we must lower taxes and get rid of over regulation. He added that “Under my plan we are lowering taxes very substantially” he also mentioned that “We are going to get rid of the tremendous rules and regulations”.
As we neared the end of the press conference, a reporter asked Mr. Trump now that he has hit the magic number of 1237 (thanks to North Dakota) and he officially has his sights set on the presidency, what are the first things he would do as “President Trump”? Mr. Trump explained that first he wants to focus on unwinding executive orders especially regarding the boarder. He wants to rebuild our military to make it bigger, better and stronger than ever before.
Another reporter wanted to know if Mr. Trump would carry on the Ethanol mandate past 2022? According the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard law, gasoline refiners are mandated to blend so much plant-based or renewable ethanol into the gas supply that it prevents Celanese or any other fossil-fuel-based ethanol’s from even competing for the market. Though the RFS caps the blending of corn ethanol at 15 billion gallons a year, it calls for total bio-fuels blending to grow to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022. Trump stated that he wants to meet with the governor of Iowa to look into the mandate and discuss options.
Mr. Trump also paid his respects to the great local farmers of North Dakota joking that he personally enjoys eating a lot of the produce grown here in ND.
Next Mr. Trump was asked how he would deal with overregulation regarding fracking. Stating that Bernie Sanders has said he would ban fracking all together. Mr. Trump replied “We are going to open it up and we are going to be energy independent”. Mr. Trump went on to talk about how he is still very interested in pursuing green energy as well and how solar energy is great but unfortunately it is very expensive. He also gave a nod to the effectiveness of wind energy. But he pointed out that regrettably wind energy has been detrimental to local endangered wild life that has been killed in the wind mills.
Another reporter asked Mr. Trump about the low volume of crude oil that has been exported recently due to the lift of regulations by the government. The reporter went on to ask what Mr. Trump would do, as president, to increase and stimulate growth in those volumes. Mr. Trump explained that he “would open it up and keep it open, get rid of the regulations”. That very competent people, like Harold Hamm, will be allowed to do their job.
At the very end of the conference Mr. Trump is asked what the role of North Dakota Congressmen Kevin Kramer will be to a future Trump administration. Mr. Trumps states that Kramer will be “just a talented person. Who has been there right from the beginning” and motions for Kramer to come up to the podium. Mr. Trump shakes Kramer’s hand and thanks him. To which Congressmen Kramer replied “You’ve changed my life. I guess if you are one the first seven or eight members of congress to endorse somebody your life is changed. Mine’s been changed”.
After the press conference had ended we hurried into the big arena for the rally. I have always been involved in politics, even from a young age. I have been a part of many political rallies. I have never been to a political function liken to a Trump rally. There was reported to have been more than 7,000 people packed into the Civic center. He had the crowd on their feet and excited. Mr. Trump didn’t disappoint with his knowledge of the facts. Later Ron Ness was quoted saying “That speech was loaded with specifics. He backed that up with a lot of numbers. I didn’t hear anything that isn’t achievable.” When considering any federal regulations, Trump stated his litmus test would be simple “Is this regulation good for the American worker?” North Dakota Republican Party chairman Kelly Armstrong said he heard what he needed to hear from Trump on eliminating government regulations, reducing taxes and protecting the energy industry. As chairman, Armstrong is one of North Dakota’s 28 delegates to the national Republican Party convention July 18-21 in Cleveland. “Tremendously good for the people of North Dakota,” Armstrong said of Trump’s positions.
Overall Mr. Trump showed a willingness to answer anything and everything without a safety net. I have never seen that in a politician. He also displayed a great sense of humor. He had the room chuckling several times. He is an entertainer and it is obvious. He does not use Teleprompters and is not afraid to acknowledge random reporters such as myself. I had to respect that about him. He seemed to have a pretty solid knowledge of the energy industry and was not afraid to admit if he hadn’t heard about a particular subject and that he would make note of the items he didn’t know much about and become educated. It was an honor to meet with Mr. Trump and it will be interesting to see where his campaign goes from here.