During President Trump’s State of the Union address, the energy industry was scarcely mentioned. In fact, his full comments on energy were: “We have ended the war on American energy. And we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal. We are now very proudly an exporter of energy to the world.”
I believe the president missed an opportunity. But let me first address what he did say, starting with energy exports.
In 2011, the U.S. became a net exporter of refined products like gasoline and diesel. The U.S. likely became a net importer of natural gas in 2017. The U.S. is also a net exporter of coal.
But the U.S. is still a large net importer of oil, and the result is that we are still an overall net importer of energy. In last year’s Annual Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecast that the U.S. would likely become a net exporter of energy between 2020 and 2030:
Contrary to what the President said, the U.S. is not yet a net energy exporter.
As far as ending the war on “beautiful, clean coal” — I am not sure what that means.
Presumably, it means that the Trump administration has eliminated policies that penalized coal because of its environmental impact. That much is true, but “clean coal” means something else. When someone refers to “clean coal,” what is meant is the sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions associated with coal-fired power. Clearly, that wasn’t the way he meant that phrase to be used.
Regarding the war on American energy, I think what he meant is “fossil energy.” It is true that President Obama often took an antagonistic position with respect to the fossil fuel industry. The Obama administration blocked pipelines, banned offshore drilling in the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic, and placed additional rules and regulations on the fossil fuel industries.
President Trump has eliminated many of the rules President Obama put in place. Those changes will likely lead to increased fossil energy production — but the biggest impact of those policies won’t be felt for several years. His most immediate first-year impact was most likely cutting through bureaucracy and speeding up approval for some stalled oil pipelines.
But I think President Trump missed an opportunity to highlight what will likely happen this year in U.S. energy production. The president could have argued that “the state of American energy has never been stronger.” I will get into that in more detail in my next column, but 2018 is shaping up to be a record year for U.S. energy production.