Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner who once said he would have "left the damn mines" if he were in the coal industry, radically changed his tune and showered coal workers with love in North Dakota on Thursday.
“We’re going to bring back the coal industry, save the coal industry,” he said while announcing his America First Energy Plan at the annual Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota. “I love those people.”
It was a totally different tone toward coal workers than he displayed during a Playboy interview in 1990. Trump claimed coal miners lacked imagination and a natural-born talent that would have made them become a "great athlete" or "entrepreneur" like himself.
Trump: I love the creative process. I do what I do out of pure enjoyment...I like the challenge and tell the story of the coal miner’s son. The coal miner gets black-lung disease, his son gets it, then his son. If I had been the son of a coal miner, I would have left the damn mines. But most people don’t have the imagination-or whatever-to leave their mine. They don’t have “it.”
Playboy: Which is?
Trump: “It” is an ability to become an entrepreneur, a great athlete, a great writer. You’re either born with it or you’re not.
It's not a big surprise, given the contradictions in Trump's energy speech, during which he claimed outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton were destroying America by trying to adapt to climate change and emerging solar and wind energy technology.
He described the Environmental Protection Agency as a terrifying regulator that Clinton would "unleash" on Americans, to "control every aspect of our lives."
Trump went on to make a series of contradictory statements, claiming he would stop the "totalitarian" Environment Protection Agency's regulation of the fossil fuel industry, boost oil and gas production, while provide clean air and water for Americans, without any strict industry oversight.
Trump was emboldened by strong support in North Dakota, a major hub of shale oil exploration, where Bakken shale revitalized the state's economy. Oil and gas activity went from representing 2 per cent of the state's economy in 2004 to 16 percent in just 10 years, though workers have been hit hard by the recent oil price crash.
The Republican frontrunner drummed up fear and resentment toward President Obama and Clinton, claiming they were to blame for economic hardships.
"President Obama has done everything he can to get in the way of American energy. He’s made life much more difficult for North Dakota," Trump said.
"If Hillary Clinton is in charge, things will get much worse. She will shut down energy production across this country....Just listen to Hillary Clinton’s own words. She has declared war on the American worker...if Crooked Hillary can shut down the mines, she can shut down your business too. Permanently in some cases."
Trump went on to deride Obama's "death by a thousand cuts" to oil and gas production in the U.S., and his "draconian" climate change policies.
The Republican presidential candidate made virtually no mention of what he would do about climate change - a phenomenon that has have already caused sea levels to rise in places like Miami, and severe droughts to hit California. Instead, Trump promised to pull America out of the Paris climate agreement and throw his support behind new oil and gas drilling, all the while continuing to "conserve our beautiful natural habitats."
Citing the Institute for Energy Research, a nonprofit founded by libertarian Republican donors Charles Koch and Robert Bradley Jr., Trump claimed increased oil and gas activity would create $700 billion increase in annual economic output over the next 30 years.
Although Trump usually talks about how China is "killing" America in terms of economic growth, he did not mention that the Asian powerhouse is now the world's biggest investor in solar and wind energy and that Beijing is shutting down all major coal plants by 2017.
While speaking to reporters, Trump also responded to questions about TransCanada’s proposed Upland pipeline, which would transport approximately 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day by connecting to the Energy East pipeline.
“I’m not aware of that one but we would certainly take a look at it and I will tell you my basic bias would be to approve,” Trump said. “I’m going to look at anything.”