It's no secret where Donald Trump stands on the scientific evidence indicating that human activity is causing climate change. Quite simply, the loud and proud businessman thinks it's a hoax.
On Thursday however, industry observers are anticipating a bit more substance from the presumptive Republican nominee as he delivers a major speech about the future of American energy industry.
Texas-based Conservative energy expert Kathleen Hartnett White believes he could brand himself as the only candidate who can make America the dominant world energy producer.
“He needs to say more about what his policies are," explained the director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, "but he has indicated repeatedly that — in great contrast to the other two candidates for president — he understands the unprecedented opportunity that the shale revolution presents.”
Trump is scheduled to speak at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in North Dakota, the heart of U.S. drilling country. It is also the "perfect place" for him to launch his energy platform, said Hartnett White, who recently authored FUELING FREEDOM: Exposing the Mad War on Energy.
The central state has profited enormously from advances in oil and natural gas production technology over the last eight years - including the controversial practice of hydraulic fracking - and is recovering slowly from recent plummeting oil markets.
Until now, Trump, the GOP front-runner, has been so vague on his energy platform that even oil and gas supporters — traditionally loyal to the Republican Party— are questioning their support for his candidacy. In a Politico analysis, one industry insider even asked for a "Door Number Three" in the choice between Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump has previously endorsed fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline (sent to the grave by President Obama in November last year), the revitalization of America's coal industry, American energy independence, and greater investment in oil and gas infrastructure. These interests however, are considered at odds with other promises the candidate has made to protect precious federal lands for hunting and fishing, and promote ethanol for corn growers, a biofuel that oil refiners say drives up their costs.
Republicans fear Clinton's interest in renewables
For an audience in North Dakota, said Hartnett White, this distinguishes him from Clinton, who told a town hall in Columbus, Ohio that she "would put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business" as the only candidate with a policy on how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy into U.S. coal country.
Clinton clarified that those industry workers would not be forgotten and later apologized for her poor choice of wording, but according to Hartnett White, the damage has already been done.
"That’s hardly support for making energy a priority," she told National Observer. "In my opinion, a core priority issue for the left-leaning voters of our country is trying to eliminate fossil fuels as fast as possible to replace them with renewables no matter the cost... She articulates all of that, and she repeats it as if it’s the core doctrine of the left.”
Author advocates making America energy independent
Gas prices are the lowest in since 2005, she said, and it has happened in spite of Obama's effort to end "the age of fossil fuels." Small entrepreneurs and businesses pioneered the shale revolution, opening up new reserves, and with roughly $50-trillion of accessible oil and gas sitting under American soil, she encouraged Trump to make America great again by making it energy independent.
“I think the people want to hear that they’ll have a president who is fully supportive of their industry as a benefit for the entire country," she explained. “They need to be reminded that while it’s unfortunate that they lost their jobs, don’t go away too far, because it looks like they’ll be coming back. Thirdly, I think they need to know that a Trump administration would not over-regulate the shale field of upstream oil and gas.”
Hartnett White said she hopes the controversial businessman's energy platform will include a "lean, efficient regulatory regime" that is predominantly implemented by state governments, rather than a "one-size-fits-all" federal approach, as has increasingly been the case under the outgoing Obama administration. Trump understands the power and operation of business, she added, including what constitutes an appropriate relationship between the federal government and private commerce.
It is unclear whether Trump will bring up climate change at Thursday's oil conference or make any statements about renewable energy, both of which have been pillars of Clinton's campaign. Trump quite famously believes climate change is a hoax created by special interests that negatively affects businesses, and has even mocked the subject on Twitter:
It’s snowing & freezing in NYC. What the hell ever happened to global warming?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2013
But Hartnett White said America must be in a favourable economic position before it can tackle the threats of a changing climate effectively. This position is similar to recent comments made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who said that pipelines will pay for his own country's transition to a green economy.
So if Hartnett White could advise Trump on his speech tomorrow, she said she would direct him to say the following:
"Prosperous countries with free competitive markets tend to be more adaptive and creative in response to problems, so I think a rapid replacement of fossil fuels would risk — many people use the word ‘dismantle’ — our economy. That’s not a good position to be in if do we have a climate that threatens anything.
“On the other hand, the science needs to go on, but it’s reached a kind of dead end. Prosperous countries like ours should get the finest minds in the world and take a new approach to the science of climate and weather. There’s great things we could go, but only if we are prosperous.”
This would be a happy medium for the loud and proud businessman, she explained, that both addresses the problem, indicates support for energy expansion, and doesn't incite the ire of voters from either end of the political spectrum.
A representative from the Trump campaign could not be reached for comment.