The U.S. oil and gas industry is investing heavily to return Donald Trump to the White House in presidential elections this fall, according to analysis conducted by OpenSecrets, a Washington, DC-based charity devoted to transparency in government.
Oil and gas companies poured US$7.37 million into Trump’s election campaign in 2023, Bloomberg reports, citing OpenSecrets analysis, nearly 10 times as much as they contributed to his Republican primary challenger, former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador Nikki Haley. President Joe Biden received just $635,000, even though the industry has seen record production and profits since he took office in 2021.
The big haul for Trump makes oil and gas “one of the top industries funding Trump’s 2024 run and a critical source of cash for his White House comeback bid, as other major donors—particularly in finance, private equity, and venture capital—have opted instead to back his last remaining GOP rival Haley,” Bloomberg writes.
Climate Policies Discourage Fossil Donors
“U.S. production and exports of oil and gas have surged under Biden’s watch, with the nation producing a record 13.3 million barrels of crude a day in November—up from some 11 million barrels per day in 2020 before he took office,” the news agency adds. But Biden has also “done more than any other U.S. president to confront climate change and promote renewable energy, making him an unlikely commander-in-chief to preside over a domestic oil and gas boom. Biden’s support for emission-free power—and policies targeting oil and gas pollution—have discouraged donors” from within the fossil sector.
“Oil industry leaders say the uptick comes in spite of Biden’s policies, not because of them,” Bloomberg writes.
With 91 indictments hanging over his head in four criminal cases, Trump may be on his way into a very bad week in court (from his point of view), even as he closes in on the Republican presidential nomination. On Thursday, Justice Juan Merchan may schedule the first in a series of criminal trials facing the former reality TV star—also a first in history for a former U.S. president—“raising the spectre that Mr. Trump might end up behind bars,” the New York Times reports.
Then on Friday, in a civil fraud trial at a courthouse two blocks away, Justice Arthur Engoron will be “weighing the New York attorney general’s request to penalize Mr. Trump hundreds of millions of dollars and sever him from the company he ran for decades,” the news story adds. “Justice Engoron’s ruling could drain Mr. Trump’s cash coffers, and if the former president ultimately leaves Justice Merchan’s courtroom as a felon, it would send the country’s already bitter politics into uncharted realms.”
‘Down to the Precipice’
But Trump’s increasingly dire legal prospects haven’t allayed fears about badly he could damage the drive to get climate change under control—across the United States, and around the world—if he wins in the fall. “It’s not like we have many more electoral terms to waste,” veteran U.S. climate author and activist Bill McKibben told The Energy Mix Weekender earlier this month. “We’re really right down to the precipice now.”
Already, Trump is promising to expand fossil fuel production and shred Biden’s climate agenda if he regains the White House. In his first term, Trump “pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, staffed his environmental agencies with fossil fuel lobbyists, and claimed—against all scientific evidence—that the Earth’s rising temperatures will ‘start getting cooler’,” Politico wrote earlier this year. “Expect a second Trump presidency to show less restraint.”
Last week, Eric Beightel, executive director of the U.S. Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, told a Politico podcast he was “somewhat terrified” that a second Trump term in the White House would be “catastrophic to our hopes and dreams of our clean energy transition.”
Beightel, whose office coordinates infrastructure approvals across U.S. government agencies, said he was particularly concerned for offshore wind projects along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
“What we saw during the last Trump administration is that offshore wind essentially stood still. And what we’ve had to do since coming in was to pick that up,” he said, in what Politico called an “unusually stark assessment” of the damage Trump could do.
“If we had to do that again, coupled with the previous supply chain issues that we’ve already had to reconcile, that could be a death knell to this nascent industry.”
There are similar concerns about the likely Republican nominee’s plans to gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a prospect that “horrifies” experts, the Guardian writes.
“I think it would be devastating,” said Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, which led or took part in many of the lawsuits against regulatory rollbacks during Trump’s first term.
“You’d see a brain drain as fewer young people will want to work there,” he said. “We would see a lot more effort on all things fossil fuels, and already the prospect of a second Trump administration is making clean energy investors nervous.”
During his term in the White House, “Trump successfully proposed cutting the EPA budget. Hundreds of scientists and other experts fled the agency as the administration dismissed scientific findings and weakened environmental regulations,” the Guardian says. If he returned, the outcome would be far worse, observers say, with a more seasoned team of senior managers to appoint and more detailed and radical plans already in place.
“They’re going to be better prepared to do things that really make a difference,” said U.S. energy lobbyist and lawyer Jeff Holmstead, who served as deputy EPA administrator under President George W. Bush.
The Guardian has more on the Biden initiatives that would likely be lost, and what Trump supporters hope to see.
Nothing Succeeds Like Success
The threat of a massive rollback in U.S. climate and clean energy policy is taking shape just as the Biden administration’s efforts are producing results. Investments under the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) have helped trigger a global race for clean energy investment, putting the world economy within reach of tripling renewable energy capacity by the end of this decade.
One unintended consequence is that the cost estimates attached to the IRA, originally pegged at US$369 billion, have “effectively doubled” in the last 18 months, the Times reports—essentially because nothing succeeds like success.
“Nearly all of the increase is attributable to forecasters’ belief that the law will be more popular than they had originally expected, in part because of the way the Biden administration wrote certain regulations,” the Times writes. “That rising price tag may actually be good for reducing greenhouse gas emissions—and for the U.S. economy.”
The U.S. Congressional Budget Office, which originally forecast that the administration’s energy measures would add $391 billion to federal deficits between 2022 and 2031, has since revised its calculation to more than $800 billion for the decade ending in 2033. But the Times also points to the benefits: Companies have invested $44 billion in clean energy manufacturing in the last year alone, with more expected over time. Electric vehicle sales could surge, and “concerted climate action” is on track to help the economy and the budget over time.
“Administration officials have warned the risks of climate inaction are large for the economy and the budget,” the Times writes. “In 2022, the White House budget office estimated unchecked climate change could reduce the size of the economy by as much as one-tenth by the end of this century,” costing the government $1 trillion or more over a decade for flood insurance, disaster relief, health care costs, and more.