President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to nominate former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy opens the door to U.S. energy independence in the near future — not to mention a growing economy, fueled by private-sector investment and high-paying jobs.
In other words, a radical break from the past eight years of the Obama administration.
Trump has outlined several steps he wants to take in energy policy. First, he has pledged to roll back the obstructionist regulatory efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency. And no one will be better at achieving that goal than Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who Trump picked to run the agency.
For years now, Congress has been ceding tremendous power to federal agencies, and bureaucrats have gladly embraced that handover. But under President Obama, several federal agencies decided to expand their legal mandate to an ideological mandate — and no agency more so than the EPA. Look for Pruitt to rein in that agency and slap down its power grab.
Second, the president-elect has promised to revisit the Keystone XL pipeline decision.
Government environmental-impact studies cleared the pipeline to proceed. Waiting until voters could no longer express their disapproval at the polls, Obama finally decided to squash the infrastructure project — along with the thousands of high-paying jobs needed to build it.
Similarly, the Dakota Access pipeline had received needed government approvals and was nearly complete when the Standing Rock Sioux tribe — along with hundreds of environmentalists and celebrities looking for a photo-op — decided to try to stop it. Obama did his best to help them. A Trump administration is likely to remove any remaining barriers so that pipeline can be completed.
Third, Trump has said his administration will allow more drilling on federal land. That would be a big step toward achieving true energy independence.
The U.S. is now the largest producer of crude oil and natural gas in the world, but we still import about 25% of the crude we need. Opening up more federal lands and offshore production will allow us to fill that gap.
Trump has pledged to use the billions of dollars in federal mineral royalties to help pay for his ambitious infrastructure rebuilding program. A better use of those funds would be to offset the costs of his tax reform proposal. But either way, it’s refreshing to talk about growing government revenues without growing taxes.
Increased production will also allow the U.S. to export more crude oil and natural gas to our allies, many of whom rely on Russia for their energy needs. For example, the European Union depends on Russia for about a third of its energy and would love to have an affordable alternative. Moving the U.S. from oil importer to oil exporter will also dramatically reduce our trade deficit, another Trump goal.
Finally, Trump has pledged to revive the coal industry, especially “clean coal.” That promise may be a bridge too far. While the EPA has indeed been hounding the coal industry beyond all reason, competition from natural gas is doing as much if not more damage.
Innovative drilling techniques have swelled supplies and lowered the price of gas, making it one of the cheapest options for power generation. And it burns cleaner, emitting about half the carbon of coal.
As a result of power plants shifting to gas, the U.S. Energy Information Administration recently announced that energy-related carbon emissions for the first six months of this year were down to their lowest level since 1991 — when there were about 60 million fewer Americans.