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A Look at President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ Energy Plan 1 Year After Inauguration

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One year ago President Donald Trump was sworn into office. Much of his campaign leading up to his election was focused on promises relating to energy.

From the advancement of ‘clean coal’, to energy independence -- how many of the ‘America First’ energy plan promises have been delivered?

It's unrealistic to expect the current administration to deliver on every promise within the first year, but here is a breakdown of four main items and what was/was not delivered during his first 12 months in office.

1. Make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs and protect clean air and clean water 

The first of the administration's priorities actually consists of three promises wrapped into one: energy independence, job creation, and clean air protections.

  • Energy Independence
    President Trump has since evolved his stance from achieving energy independence to energy dominance, with a goal of becoming a net exporter to boost its own economy over the next few years.

    In June 2017, the President made it official through a series of events it called "Energy Week," during which 
    Secretary of Energy Rick Perry outlined the basic premise of the goal: "An energy dominant America means self-reliant. It means a secure nation, free from geopolitical turmoil of other nations who seek to use energy as an economic weapon. An energy dominant America will export to markets around the world, increasing our global leadership and our influence."

    The first steps toward that goal seem to have been made: U.S. oil output has been on a steady rise and is expected by some to surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia for the global top spot in production. 

    Natural gas production in the U.S. is expected to hit record highs in 2018, and the EIA expects the country to become a net energy exporter by 2026. That's still years away, but the administration is moving toward its goal.

    Further, the Administration has been very supportive of increased LNG exports, which can play a large geopolitical role overseas.

    True energy dominance would also mean no more imports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, described by Trump repeatedly as a cartel, or any other hostile nations.

    Production has increased, but has that influenced energy imports from these countries?

    Possibly. Crude oil imports from OPEC reached 
    almost 120 million barrels in January 2017, the month of the inauguration. By October 2017, that number was down to just under 100 million barrels.

    But that's not necessarily a consistent trend. For instance, imports dipped to 78 million barrels in February 2015, long before Pres. Trump took office. Only time will tell whether the recent decrease is coincidence or an outlier, or part of a larger trend toward fulfilling a core campaign promise.
  • Energy-Related Job Creation
    Through a relaxation on several federal regulations, the Trump administration has hoped to increase the hiring power within the industry. So far, these regulations have made a minor impact.

    2016, the Department of Energy estimated that 3.64 million professionals work in oil, gas, coal, renewables, and other energy-related fields. In 2017, that number saw little change, with coal actually being a major loser in the jobs category.

    In other words, we're still a long way away from the "millions of new jobs" President Trump promised in the energy sector. Time will tell whether the administration's focus on loosening regulations will lead to the desired job growth that was promised during and after the campaign.
  • Clean Air and Water Protection
    Under this goal, Trump promised that his administration would "conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources. We will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country."

    Critics argue that instead, the opposite has happened. Policies like President Obama's Clean Power Plan, designed to address carbon emissions and climate change concerns, have been 
    under review and rolled back through a number of executive orders. Several other pollution-related regulations have been put on hold as well.

    Meanwhile, national monuments have been reduced and regulations have been rescinded to allow for oil drilling on federal lands including national parks.

2. Open Onshore and Offshore Leasing on Federal Lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.

As of early January 2018, this part of the energy plan is close to fulfilled. The New York Times reported on Jan. 4 that the Department of the Interior would open nearly all federal offshore waters for auction to drill. While this announcement may face some legal and regulatory challenges, if it goes through, this would be a significant step towards President Trump’s promise of energy independence. .

On shore, similar efforts are underway. The Obama administration's moratorium on coal leasing has already been lifted, and the Department of the Interior has also reduced the size of national lands to allow for more drilling. 


3. Encourage the Use of Natural Gas and Other American Energy Resources that Reduce Emissions and Price while Increasing Economic Output. 

The goal was lofty: decrease emissions through increased natural gas usage, reducing the price of energy, but also increasing economic output. How close are we to this difficult promise, one year in?

The administration would certainly argue that a lift of regulations and drilling restrictions has led to the aforementioned increase in natural gas production. Gas prices, though, have not necessarily decreased alongside with it. In fact, they increased slightly in 2017, and are expected to remain steady without a decrease through 2019. 

A similar roadblock has occurred in the goal to reduce emissions. While the EIA saw an almost 1% decrease in carbon emissions in 2017, it expects that trend to reverse and lead to a 1.72% increase in 2018.

4. Rescind executive actions by the previous administration. 

Many of the actions mentioned above are direct reversals from the previous president, ranging from the Clean Power Act to the moratorium on offshore drilling in certain parts of federal waters.

In fact, experts argue that even beyond energy, reversing the policies of his predecessor has been President Trump's single biggest success. That can also be seen in the withdrawal from the global Paris Climate Agreement, which was seen as a major accomplishment by President Obama at the time of its signing.

What’s important to note, though, is that things that are executed or reversed by executive order can be similarly undone by future Presidents so many of these policies and actions are not permanent unless Congress passes them into law.

 Where Does American Energy Policy Go From Here?

As expected, the energy promises by President Trump are in various levels of fulfillment. Some, like rescinding executive actions by his predecessor and allowing increased drilling, have already been successful or are close to complete. Others, such as making the United States truly energy-dominant and bringing millions of new jobs in the next few years, may be difficult to accomplish even through the rest of his term.

2018 might be the year we begin to see the first true impact of Trump's new energy policies and shifts. New agreements and incentives do not always immediately translate to action, but this could be the year we see whether the fossil fuel industry begins pushing back against the rising tide of renewables. It's a crucial time in terms of the present and future of energy, and monitoring its twists and turns will be crucial in the coming months.

For the whole story on recent Energy Policy Changes, as well as predictions for 2018, check out the Year in Review: Energy Industry News & Events from 2017.

 year in review


Posted: January 26, 2018