May 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump teams up with Big Oil in push to dismantle Biden's green agenda

Illustration of two hands toasting but with oil barrels instead of glasses

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Former President Trump and the oil industry are sketching out audacious plans to begin dismantling President Biden's fossil fuel regulations on Jan. 20, 2025:

  • At Mar-a-Lago last month, Trump asked some of the industry's top executives to help raise $1 billion for his campaign as he outlined his pro-drilling agenda for a second term, the Washington Post first reported.
  • Separately, oil industry officials have begun drafting the text of oven-ready executive orders to start reversing the Biden administration's green policies on day one of Trump's presidency, according to Politico.

Why it matters: The remarkably transactional Mar-a-Lago pitch underscores how much Trump — who famously vowed to "drain the swamp" of special interests — is tying his campaign fortunes to the oil and gas industry.

  • In many respects, it's a symbiotic relationship: Trump's campaign is cash-strapped, and the oil industry's deep pockets are a logical place to turn for a candidate who has promised to "drill, baby, drill."
  • Some oil executives, per Politico, fear Trump is too distracted by his legal troubles to hash out the details of his energy strategy and would not carefully implement their preferred policies if elected.

The big picture: In a campaign packed with split screens, the contrast between Trump and Biden on fossil fuels and climate change is among the most stark.

Zoom in: Trump has railed against vehicle emissions regulations intended to speed the shift to electric cars, vowing to reverse what he called Biden's "ridiculous Green New Deal crusade."

  • In a second term, Trump will likely reverse the White House "pause" on new liquefied natural gas export approvals to major markets and propose far more offshore oil and gas leasing than Biden.
  • Trump has also expressed hostility toward certain forms of clean energy: "I hate wind," the former president told the executives at Mar-a-Lago, according to the Post.

Between the lines: Fossil fuel production and profits have soared to record highs under the Biden administration — an irony that geopolitical analyst Ian Bremmer dubbed the "hush-hush" oil boom.

  • Some oil executives say the industry has flourished in spite of Biden's regulatory blitz — not because of anything his administration has done.
  • "It's the worst presidency with regard to energy policy I've ever seen — and I've been involved in energy for 40 years, my entire career," Elevation Resources CEO Steve Pruett told the Financial Times.

Zoom out: While Trump's policies would risk exacerbating global warming, Biden's overall aim is to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

  • He wants electric models to account for over half of vehicle sales by 2030 and a carbon-free electricity system by 2035.
  • Critics say his policies harm fossil fuel producing regions and sap U.S. geopolitical leverage and security.

Yes, but: Biden has made some concessions, such as approving a scaled-back version of ConocoPhillips' big Willow oil project in Alaska.

  • And while the oil and gas industry would broadly favor Trump's agenda, certain elements — such as the former president's zeal for tariffs — carry risks, too.

How it's playing: The Post's report about the Mar-a-Lago meeting was met with a flood of outrage from environmental groups and Democrats.

  • "Donald Trump is selling out working families to Big Oil for campaign checks. It's that simple," the Biden campaign said in a statement.

The other side: "Joe Biden is controlled by environmental extremists who are trying to implement the most radical energy agenda in history and force Americans to purchase electric vehicles they can't afford," Trump campaign press secretary Karoline Leavitt told Axios in a statement.

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