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Trump Promises Oil & Gas Execs Free Rein — If They Contribute $1 Billion To Campaign

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Donald Trump has made a prophet out of Bruce Cain, a political scientist at Stanford. Four weeks ago, he told New York Times contributor Thomas Edsall that some of the conservative victories in campaign finance law — particularly Citizens United — have strengthened “the power of elected officials to coerce donations out of the donors.” He added there has always been “an element of hostile dependency built into campaign fundraising. Businesses have always given money to gain access or avoid bad things happening to them if the people in power feel that certain supporters let them down.”

What is different today is the potential for extortion — a consequence of Citizens United that no one fully appreciated at the time that case was decided. The irony of inviting big donors and businesses to give large or unlimited donations is that it strengthens the inappropriate relationship between donors and government leaders. Republican donors sought to eliminate restrictions on them in the belief that it “would favor them,” Cain said. Instead, quite the opposite has happened. “Trump’s mafia modus operandi can be counted on to take this to the extreme,” Cain said.

Trump Makes A Proposal Over Dinner

How prophetic. The Washington Post reported on May 9, 2024, that at a meeting with fossil fuel company executives at Mar-A-Lago in April, Trump suggested they should get together and donate $1 billion to get him re-elected. Once in office, he vowed to immediately reverse dozens of President Biden’s environmental rules and policies and stop new ones from being enacted, according to people with knowledge of the meeting. Giving $1 billion would be a “deal,” Trump said, because of the taxation and regulation they would avoid.

Trump’s remarkably blunt and transactional pitch reveals how the former president is targeting the oil industry to finance his reelection bid. At the same time, he has turned to the industry to help shape his environmental agenda for a second term, including the rollbacks of some of Biden’s signature achievements on clean energy and electric vehicles.

The contrast between the two candidates on climate policy could not be more stark, The Post said. Biden has called global warming an “existential threat,” and over the last three years, his administration has finalized 100 new environmental regulations aimed at cutting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, restricting toxic chemicals, and conserving public lands and waters. In comparison, Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” and his administration weakened or wiped out more than 125 environmental rules and policies over four years.

In recent months, the Biden administration has raced to overturn Trump’s environmental actions and issue new ones before the November election. So far, Biden officials have overturned 27 Trump actions affecting the fossil fuel industry and completed 23 new actions affecting the sector, according to a Washington Post analysis. The Interior Department, for instance, recently blocked future oil drilling across 13 million acres of the Alaskan Arctic.

Despite the oil industry’s complaints about Biden’s policies, the United States is now producing more oil than any country ever has, pumping nearly 13 million barrels per day on average last year. ExxonMobil and Chevron, the largest U.S. energy companies, reported their biggest annual profits in a decade last year.

Yet oil giants will see an even greater windfall — helped by new offshore drilling, speedier permits, and other relaxed regulations — in a second Trump administration, Trump told the executives over the dinner. He vowed to immediately end the freeze on permits for new LNG terminals in the Gulf of Mexico put in place by the Biden administration. “You’ll get it on the first day,” he said, according to the recollection of one person who was in attendance.

The roughly two dozen executives invited included Mike Sabel, the CEO and founder of Venture Global, and Jack Fusco, the CEO of Cheniere Energy, whose proposed projects would directly benefit from lifting the pause on new LNG exports. Other attendees came from companies including Chevron, Continental Resources, Exxon, and Occidental Petroleum, according to an attendance list obtained by The Post.

Trump And The Quid Pro Quo

Trump also told the executives he would start auctioning off more leases for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, a priority that several of the executives raised. He railed against wind power and he said he would reverse the restrictions on drilling in the Alaskan Arctic. “You’ve been waiting on a permit for five years. You’ll get it on Day One,” Trump promised.

In addition, he said he would scrap Biden’s “mandate” on electric vehicles. Those rules require automakers to reduce emissions from car tailpipes, but they do not mandate a particular technology such as electric cars. The fossil fuel industry has aggressively lobbied against the EPA’s tailpipe rules, which could eat into demand for its petroleum products. The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, an industry trade group, has launched a seven-figure campaign against what it calls a de facto “gas car ban.” The campaign includes ads in battleground states warning that the rule will restrict consumer choice.

Although rolling back the latest EPA tailpipe emissions rule would benefit the fossil fuel industry, it would anger the auto industry, which has invested billions of dollars in the transition away from gasoline-powered cars. Many automakers are under increasing pressure to sell more EVs in Europe, which has tightened its own tailpipe emissions rules, and they are eager to avoid a patchwork of regulations around the globe.

“Automakers need some degree of regulatory certainty from government,” said John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents Ford, General Motors, Stellantis, Toyota and other car companies. “What has emerged instead is a wholesale repeal … and then reinstatement … and then repeal again of regulations every four or eight years.”

A key person leading the Trump campaign’s development of its energy policy is North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, who has been talking extensively to oil donors and CEOs. At a fundraiser on Saturday in Palm Beach, Florida, Burgum told donors that Trump would halt Biden’s “attack” on fossil fuels, according to a recording of his remarks obtained by The Post. “What would be the number one thing that President Trump could do on Day One? It’s stop the hostile attack against all American energy, and I mean all,” Burgum said. “Whether it’s baseload electricity, whether it’s oil, whether it’s gas, whether it’s ethanol, there is an attack on liquid fuels.”

Burgum also criticized the Biden administration’s policies on gas stoves and vehicles with internal combustion engines, claiming that they would prevent consumers from buying both technologies. While the Energy Department recently set new efficiency standards for gas stoves, they would not affect the stoves in people’s kitchens or those currently on the market.

“They’ve got some liberal idea about what products we need,” Burgum said. “You all need EV cars. You don’t need internal combustion. We’ll decide what kind of car you’re going to drive, and we’re going to regulate the other ones out of business. I mean, it’s just in every industry, not just in cars, not just in energy. They’re telling people what stoves you can buy. This is not America.”

The Biden campaign initially declined to comment for the Washington Post article, but after it was published, Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa issued a statement in which he said, “Donald Trump is selling out working families to Big Oil for campaign checks. It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter to Trump that oil and gas companies charge working families and middle class Americans whatever they want while raking in record profits. If Donald can cash a check, he’ll do what they say,” Moussa added.

Alex Witt, a senior adviser for oil and gas with Climate Power, said Trump’s promise is he will do whatever the oil industry wants if they support him. With Trump, Witt said, “everything has a price. They got a great return on their investment during Trump’s first term, and Trump is making it crystal clear that they’re in for an even bigger payout if he’s re-elected.”

The Takeaway

Donald Trump is the world’s biggest loser. His whole career has been one business failure after another — Trump Shuttle (an airline company), Trump Steaks, Trump University, and a Trump casino in Atlantic City were all disasters. He should teach a course at the Wharton School, his alma mater, on how not to do business. His whole existence is based on a myth. Most people forget he was a disciple of Roy Cohn, the lunatic who counseled Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon on the power of illusion. He was also enthralled by Vince McMahon, the impresario who created the WWE, which featured the illusion of sport over the real thing.

Citizens United has turned US elections into a quasi-criminal enterprise. Greed and fear now reinforce each other. Samuel Issacharoff, a professor of constitutional law at NYU, told Thomas Edsall, “Trump governs in a swirl of corruption and intimidation. Everyone knows this and understands that in such regimes, proximity to power is key to government largess. In oligarchic regimes we see this in the sheer population concentrations in the capital city. Here, aspirants flock to Mar-a-Lago.”

Edsall concluded his piece for the New York Times with this observation: “They are eager to contribute, and to be seen as contributing, because power and privilege flow from proximity. Trump may view himself as a latter day Louis XIV, including in his love of gilt. But in more recent times, this is the governance style of the banana republic dictators of the 20th century and the populist anti-democrats of the 21st.”

And so, as the world’s most respected climate scientists are telling The Guardian that higher average global temperatures of 2.5°C — or more — are now probably locked in thanks to our disinterest in taking climate heating seriously, Trump is telling us straight out that he will happily blow the rest of the Earth’s available carbon budget to satisfy his own insatiable need for adoration and power.

There’s no need to think deeply about the next election coming up in November. Either you want to continue to have a sustainable planet to live on or you want fossil fuel oligarchs to get even richer than they already are at the expense of the environment. The choice could not be any clearer.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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