Legal & Regulatory

Energy Policy Differences Between Trump and Clinton Are Black and White

The two probable major-party U.S. presidential candidates hold very different views on energy and climate. One intends to focus on expanding and developing America’s fossil-fuel industries, while the other plans to grow renewable energy and promote efficiency. Can you guess who’s who?

Fossil vs. Renewable

Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee, presented his “America-First Energy Plan” during a speech at the 2016 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference held in Bismarck, N.D., on May 26. Under a Trump administration, “American energy dominance will be declared a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States,” he said.

Hillary Clinton, the leading candidate for the Democrats, has touted two major goals as part of her platform. They are to have more than half a billion solar panels installed across the country by the end of her first term, and to generate enough clean renewable energy to power every home in America within 10 years of taking office.

During Trump’s speech, he trumpeted vast oil and gas reserves that he says exist on federal lands. “We’re loaded! We didn’t even know it. We’re loaded! We had no idea how rich we were. We’re richer than all of ’em!” he exclaimed to a cheering crowd at the North Dakota Petroleum Council–hosted event.

Trump claimed that the U.S. has more natural gas than Russia, Iran, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia combined. However, based on OPEC’s 2015 Annual Statistical Bulletin, Trump’s assertion is far from true. While the bulletin does peg U.S. natural gas reserves ahead of Saudi Arabia’s, Iran is said to have more than twice as much as the U.S. Statistics show that Qatar has three times the U.S. reserves and Russia has five times as much.

Trump also claimed that the U.S. has 1.5 times more oil than all OPEC countries combined, which also doesn’t jibe with publicly available statistics. While the U.S. Energy Information Administration says U.S. crude oil and lease condensate proved reserves were in excess of 39 billion barrels in 2014, the OPEC bulletin says its reserves were 1.2 trillion barrels in 2014—more than 30 times the U.S. total.

Presumably, Trump is getting his statistics from recently announced energy advisor, North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer, but somewhere along the line the numbers seem to have been distorted.

Clean Power Plan

The candidates differ markedly in their environmental positions too. Clinton said she would make it a top priority to fight efforts to roll back the Clean Power Plan—the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule to cut carbon emissions from power plants by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.

“I won’t let anyone take us backward, deny our economy the benefits of harnessing a clean energy future, or force our children to endure the catastrophe that would result from unchecked climate change,” Clinton said.

In contrast, Trump said his administration would focus “on real environmental challenges—not the phony ones that we’ve been looking at [under the Obama administration].”

As part of his 100-day action plan, Trump said he would rescind “all the job destroying Obama executive actions, including the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the United States rule.”

Paris Climate Pledge

Trump made it clear that he isn’t interested in being a part of a worldwide movement to cut carbon emissions either.

“We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement,” he said, “and stop all payments of the Unites States’ tax dollars to the UN global warming programs.”

According to Clinton, her plan is designed to “deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference last December—without relying on climate deniers in Congress to pass new legislation.” She claims her plan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% in 2025 relative to 2005 levels and put the country on a path to cut emissions more than 80% by 2050.

Energy Consumption

Clinton wants to cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals, and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world. She also wants to reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.

Trump didn’t announce any energy-efficiency goals as part of his America-First plan; his objectives seem to emphasize the supply side of the equation instead. He said he is going to ask TransCanada to renew its permit application for the Keystone pipeline, he’s going to lift moratoriums on energy production in federal areas, and he’s going to revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies.

“We will become and stay totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests,” Trump said.

Clinton is less anxious to drill in certain locations. She believes that as the nation transitions to a clean energy economy, it “must ensure that the fossil fuel production taking place today is safe and responsible and that areas too sensitive for energy production are taken off the table.” According to her campaign website, she “knows there are some places where we should keep fossil fuels in the ground or under the ocean.”


Environmental justice and climate justice are central priorities, according to Clinton. She believes air pollution, water pollution, and toxic sites are disproportionately impacting low-income communities and communities of color. Clinton intends to set a “national goal to eliminate lead poisoning as a public health risk within five years, create new economic opportunity by cleaning up the more than 450,000 toxic brownfield sites across the country, expand solar and energy efficiency solutions in low-income communities, and include the voices of community leaders, the environmental justice movement, and outside experts in taking on these challenges with a new Environmental and Climate Justice Task Force.”

Trump’s plan is to roll back at least some current regulations. “From an environmental standpoint, my priorities are very simple: clean air and clean water,” he said.

“Any regulation that’s outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped and scrapped completely,” said Trump. “Any future regulation will go through a simple test: Is this regulation good for the American worker? If it doesn’t pass this test, this rule will not be, under any circumstances, approved.”

While both candidates offer forceful sound bites, when it comes time for the new president to implement his or her energy policy, it will be interesting to see how the plan progresses. Only time will tell.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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