Trump adviser and potential EPA head gives a glimpse into what one aspect of his administration would look like
At the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh last week, Donald Trump promised
a roomful of fracking executives and stalwarts, "Oh, you will like me
so much, you will get that business. You are going to like Donald
After Trump expressed his support for local fracking bans
in August, "fracking king" Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, a
Trump energy advisor and rumored pick for Trump energy secretary, was forced to step in
and explain that the Republican nominee was "confused" by the question
and is indeed "solidly behind fracking." Trump drove the point home at
last week's conference, recognizing Hamm and asking a lone New York
shale-producing hopeful to stand and be recognized for his continued
perseverance despite a statewide fracking ban.
This was a
telling episode, showing what to expect from a Trump presidency. Trump
has an exceptionally limited policy background, forcing voters, like the
nominee himself, to look to his advisers for policy specifics.
Not that he hasn't had a few choice positions on oil to share, such as when he said of taking on ISIS,
"I'd bomb the hell out of the oil fields .... I'd then get Exxon, I'd
then get these great oil companies to go in they would rebuild them so
fast your head will spin." A "ring" of U.S. troops would then surround
the wells, protecting the oil companies, Trump said.
But that was a
year ago. Today, Trump's policy prescriptions are far more scripted.
And he's learning that he will not, in fact, run the entire federal
Trump has amassed a long and highly instructive list of advisers; many of them are also his leading campaign contributors. They're a wily bunch of extremist climate-change denialists, fossil-fuel supremacists, and at least one Koch Industries lobbyist,
as well as Gordon Gekko-types who buy distressed oil companies, strip
them for parts and sell them for a tidy profit. And they're all looking
to cash in on some extremely well timed pro-oil hoopla from the GOP
Take Kathleen Hartnett-White, rumored pick
to head Trump's Environmental Protection Agency. She's a senior fellow
and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy & the Environment at
the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a leading right-wing climate
denialist think tank that has been funded by the likes of the Koch
brothers, Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, the Heartland Institute and a
slew of small fracking oil-field players "a Who's Who of Texas polluters," as the Texas Observer described the group's donors in 2012. TPPF's president and CEO, Brooke Rollins, is also a Trump adviser.
Pittsburgh, Trump surprised many by announcing he has an "environmental
agenda" that would "be guided by true specialists in conservation." He
may well have meant Hartnett-White. Unique among his advisers, she's a
former government regulator, appointed by then Gov. George W. Bush to
the Texas Water Development Board and by Gov. Rick Perry as chair of the
Texas Environmental Quality Commission, "the second largest
environmental regulatory agency in the world after the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency," according to her bio.
In an interview, Hartnett-White assures Rolling Stone
that, if asked, she'd "love to serve" in a Trump administration. What
draws this longtime breeder of National Champion Jack Russell Terriers
to Trump is "his optimism" the kind of optimism that will propel him
to fully exploit America's "extraordinary energy bounty." The Republican
nominee surely has not disappointed, pledging in speeches to lift
restrictions on all sources of American energy production, implement a
moratorium on new, more onerous federal regulations, and eliminate the
worst of those already on the books, starting with President Obama's
signature climate policy, the "so-called Clean Power Plan," as Trump
As with so many energy policies Trump has discussed on the campaign trail, each of these is found in Fueling Freedom, Hartnett-White's 2016 book co-authored with fellow Trump adviser Stephen Moore, an economist and Heritage Foundation fellow.
Fueling Freedom is a hymnal to all things fossil fuels, the dirty-energy, non-satirical equivalent of Thank You for Smoking.
Hartnett-White says the book is a primary reason she was asked to join
Trump's team along with her work as an environmental regulator and
their shared devotion to the oil shale (or fracking) revolution.
is no hippy-dippy free love energy strategy like the "all of the above"
policies touted by Obama and Jeb Bush. There's no "weak and parasitic
renewable energy" here, no "green job craze," electric cars or biofuels.
And there's certainly no shared global sacrifice to tackle the
"exaggerated nonsense" of global warming. Quoting Charles Krauthammer,
she and Moore write, "Global warming ... is a creed, a faith, a dogma
that has little to do with science."
This is an "America First"
energy strategy that will double the amount of oil fracked in the United
States, untap 1.5 trillion barrels of oil in states like Alaska,
California, Colorado, Texas and Utah as well as offshore, and propel the
U.S. to become the dominant oil producer in the world, exporting so
much that we'd replace Saudi Arabia as the world's swing producer. Doing
so would unleash what the authors dub "the Master Resource": fossil
Trump would join a relatively short list of white men
(including Hamm) praised in the book for harnessing the Master Resource
over the centuries to gain dominion over our more savage tendencies,
just like the humans in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, they write.
about harmful side effects of fracking? Don't! "Contrary to false
reports in the media, virtually no documented environmental problems
have been associated with fracking ever." Want to balance the federal
budget, eliminate our trade deficit and retire our entire national debt?
Done! Royalties from oil, natural gas and coal resources from massively
increased production on federal lands and waters have you covered.
Worried about the carbon dioxide emissions of burning so many more
fossil fuels? Pshaw! Increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere
are good for you! "Spread the news!" they write. "Man's carbon footprint
shrinks his physical footprint on the earth."
What about "climate
justice for communities of color"? "Irrelevant," they assure. Concerned
for Native Americans fighting oil infrastructure or production
projects, such as those opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline? Don't! As
Hartnett-White explains, it turns out these, as well as "Canadian Native
Americans," might just be paid-off pawns of the Russians trying to
undermine American oil production. Phew.
There is reason to
be afraid, according to the book, and danger comes in many forms.
There's the Environmental Protection Agency, the United Nations,
California, green-energy policies that "undermine human progress" and
"are not really clean at all," people who want us to "build windmills
and ride our bicycles to work" and, of course, science. "We're not a
democracy if science dictates what our rules are," Hartnett-White tells Rolling Stone.
do these ideas translate to in practice? Luke Metzger, director of the
non-profit Environment Texas, has spent years going head-to-head with
the Texas Environmental Quality Commission. As chair, Hartnett-White
"embodied the philosophy at the agency, which was to put the interests
of big polluters ahead of public health and the environment," Metzger
tells Rolling Stone.
He cites a 2003 state auditor report
finding that TEQC under Hartnett-White consistently failed to hold
violators accountable for breaking its laws, applied fines that amounted
to only about 40 percent of the profits the companies made breaking the
law, and introduced policies that weakened its own regulations.
"was put in that position by the governor for that very reason,"
Metzger says. "Gov. Perry had received hundreds of thousands of dollars
in campaign contributions from these very businesses who had an
incentive to make sure there was as weak a regulatory structure in place
as possible. She definitely filled that role to a tee."
also a pure propaganda value to all of this, Hartnett-White admits.
Sure, she concedes, the world is currently suffering from an oil glut,
with supply outpacing demand. Demand for oil will increase, she
explains, simply by the United States stating its intention to
increase production. (If the world believes the U.S. isn't going to
follow the "climate change evangelists," then policies won't be adopted
reigning in fossil fuels, and demand will grow.)
heralding the good news about America's pending fossil-fuel world
domination. You can just feel the anticipatory hand-rubbing not only of
Hamm, but of Wilbur Ross, John Paulson, Steve Feinberg and Carter Page,
Trump's hedge-fund and private-equity crony advisers, ready to cash in.
ilk, however, have a particularly bad reputation in the Bakken
America's most notorious fracking field due to their exclusive focus
on the bottom line and profits, to the detriment of safety and lives,
forcing companies to cut corners and do more with less (including tens
of thousands of fewer workers), and contributing to a worker death rate
in North Dakota that is seven times the national average, Kevin Pranis of the Laborers International Union of North America tells Rolling Stone.
Hartnett-White is effusive about the seemingly boundless job growth the
Master Resource will bring. Citing a figure also found in Fueling Freedom, Trump pledged in Pittsburgh that freeing America's energy sector would add 500,000 jobs annually (after earlier declaring that "oil and natural gas production employs some 10 million Americans," when the actual number is less than 170,000). "All the workers that get put to work, they're going to love Donald Trump," he said.
America's oil workers aren't biting; across the board, they're backing
Hillary Clinton. Even the United Mine Workers of America, representing
the nation's coal workers, aren't supporting Trump.
International Union of Operating Engineers Pittsburgh Local 66 even went
so far as to withdraw its sponsorship of the Shale Insight conference
in protest of Trump's appearance. "There's just no way that I was going
to associate Local 66 with any function that gives this guy an avenue to
speak," Jim Kunz, business manager for the union, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, calling the GOP nominee "a snake oil salesman."