PITTSBURGH – Donald Trump told a meeting of the shale gas industry Thursday that he would adopt an "America First energy plan" that would scrap President Barack Obama’s climate plans, ease regulations, lift limits on mining and drilling of federal lands, and promote the construction of energy-related infrastructure, including controversial oil and gas pipelines and coal export facilities.
The Republican presidential nominee said his program would bring back coal industry jobs and revive the flagging fortunes of the shale oil and gas industries, all of which have been hurt by low prices over the past two years.
Speaking at the annual Shale Insight conference, Trump also attacked his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for supporting a carbon tax, declaring that it would be "a massive new tax on coal and shale production – a tax on American consumers."
Supporters of a carbon tax, which would apply to fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, say it would push consumers toward renewable energy or greater energy efficiency and could be balanced with other tax cuts to make it revenue neutral.
Trump’s message of boosting the Pennsylvania shale gas business while also restoring coal industry jobs in West Virginia and elsewhere in the Appalachians was inherently contradictory, critics said.
Coal’s biggest competitor has been cheap, abundant natural gas from shale gas drilling, and no place has larger shale gas reserves than Pennsylvania’s Marcellus region. Even without Obama’s Clean Power Plan, coal would be hard-pressed to vie with gas.
"Trump’s far-fetched promise to fully restore the coal industry would require substantial sacrifices from the natural gas industry and the millions it employs," said Joshua Freed, vice president for clean energy at Third Way, a centrist think tank.
Clinton has said she would continue to press ahead with Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would reduce coal use further. She has said she would seek money to retrain displaced coal miners.
Trump also tried to rally the audience of shale industry executives to vote and get others to vote in Pennsylvania, where he is striving to beat Clinton in a state that has traditionally been Democratic.
He said the shale energy revolution would "unleash massive wealth" for the United States, bolstering demand for American steel and attracting foreign investment.
Trump also said he would open up more offshore acreage for conventional oil and gas drilling. Currently, the federal government has leased areas throughout the Gulf of Mexico, but has restricted drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Obama has approved some preliminary work for drilling off the southeastern coast, but drilling is not part of the administration’s five-year drilling plan.
"Every energy dollar not harvested here is harvested in a foreign country, and often a foreign country not very friendly to us," Trump said. And he said that foreign nations lack U.S. environmental protections.
The GOP nominee said that he believed "firmly in conserving our wonderful natural resources and beautiful natural habitats" but said he would gut many of the protections against energy development.
He said he would "refocus" the Environmental Protection Agency on its "core mission." The Republican platform says Trump would turn the EPA into "an independent bipartisan commission, similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."