Saturday, May 28, 2016

Trump Applies His Combover Standard To A Speech About Energy Policy

       Donald Trump last week applied his "combover standard" to a speech on energy policy. His North Dakota audience ("in the palm of his hand," according to the Bismarck Tribune) greeted the speech with "thunderous applause," apparently mesmerized by the rhetorical fluff that covered
Pandering On The Prairie
Trump Can't Fix ND's Oil Glut Problem
(photo from
up the bald spots in Trump's rhetorical slam at Barack Obama's energy policies. The collective frustrations among North Dakotans, who've watched their drilling-rig count drop from 208 in 2012 to 30 last month, gushed into a love fest ("the energy just rolled in," said one observer) for Trump and his savage slams against the administration's energy policies.

      "If President Obama wanted to weaken America, he couldn't have done a better job," Trump declared.  Those energy industry-dependent North Dakotans may have loved it, but the line is total baloney.  Consider that 8 years ago, June, 2008, a few months before Obama was elected to his first term, retail gas prices were well over $4 a gallon.  They subsequently collapsed, along with the rest of George Bush's lame-duck economy, but the fact is, 8 years later I filled up in Rapid City yesterday at a bit over half that much. Gas prices now are about what they were in the mid-1970s, and that's without correcting for inflation.  As an old commodities trader and broker I know that presidential policies don't determine the price of oil in this world, but it seems pretty clear that cheap gasoline today is not indicative of a weakened America.  Certainly those of us directly involved in the tourism industry here in western South Dakota have seen a nice uptick in business the last couple of years, with relatively cheap gasoline prices probably having something to do with it. There's nothing weak about that.  I'd call a locally robust energy-dependent tourist industry the exact opposite.  
     Meantime, I doubt that any president has much to do with increases or decreases in domestic oil production, so I don't particularly credit Obama for the fact that domestic oil production during his tenure in the White House has increased by 72%.  That amounts to a 3.6

Why Does Trump Call This Weak?

(graph from
million barrel a day increase
during his term, to nearly 14 million barrels a day, making the U.S.
the world's largest oil producer.  I don't know where Trump gets his "weaken America" stuff, but outpacing the rest of the world when it comes to oil production doesn't seem like a sign of weakness to me.  As to responsibility or blame for oil production, it has more to do with global political and economic forces, along with new extraction technology, that are basically unrelated to Presidential policy-making.
     Trump's pandering tirade in North Dakota has neither logic nor history behind it.  During Obama's tenure, domestic oil production is at a 50 year high and oil imports are at a 30 year low, less than what they were in 1995.  There are things I don't like about Obama's energy policy--I still think the Keystone pipeline should have been left to local market forces and regulators for a decision--but claiming that his policies have left America in a weakened position on energy production and marketing doesn't stand the test of the bottom line.  Trump's rhetoric combs over the reality.  As he might say:  not good!

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