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President Trump with business leaders as he signs a memorandum on "Chinese economic aggression" in the White House on March 22, 2018. Photo: Mark Wilson via Getty Images

When it comes to the economy, President Trump's "America First" mantra has meant renegotiating existing trade treaties and imposing tariffs on imported goods such as aluminum, steel and solar panels. Because they prioritize growth, G7 leaders, free-trade proponents and most economists oppose Trump’s anti-globalized stance.

Yes, but: Environmentalists and steady-state economists (i.e., those who study the physical constraints on economic growth) might secretly want to cheer. Why? More global economic activity translates to more natural resource extraction and greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, and vice versa. If you want to lower GHG emissions, tanking the economy is one way to do so.

The economic argument against Trump’s U.S.-centric stance is as follows: If you restrict the international flow of money, goods and services, the costs of production will increase and, subsequently, so will consumer prices. Higher prices translate to lower consumption, which translates to less production, which translates to slower economic growth for the global economy.

Many economists and energy analysts believe that increased economic and energy efficiency reduces energy (and resource) consumption in the long run, and therefore that we can continue to grow country-specific or global economic output while shrinking energy consumption.

But, but, but: The data show this not to be true for the entire global economy: Globally, energy consumption and GDP growth go hand in hand.

The bottom line: Trump might think he is helping the U.S. economy and workers by imposing tariffs. But by introducing these isolationist policies, he might slow globalization and therefore reduce GHG emissions — something he doesn’t care much about at all.  

Carey King is a research scientist and the assistant director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

Go deeper: Read more on David Stern’s “stylized facts” of energy and economic growth.

Go deeper

Economy slows in third quarter amid Delta variant

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy increased at an annual rate of 2% in the third quarter, the Department of Commerce said Thursday.

Driving the news: The gross domestic product figures for July through September come in much lower than the 6.7% increase in the second quarter, reflecting the "continued economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Department of Commerce.

Top Dem says Big Oil put Earth on "brink" of catastrophe

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Don't expect a sedate House hearing Thursday on allegations that Big Oil has intentionally sown doubt about climate change.

What they're saying: "For far too long, Big Oil has escaped accountability for its central role in bringing our planet to the brink of a climate catastrophe. That ends today," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, intends to say in her opening remarks shared with Axios.

48 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden lays out $1.75 trillion "framework" before Europe departure

Biden in Kearny, New Jersey, on Oct. 25. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

President Biden announced Thursday a "framework" for $1.75 trillion in social program and climate change spending after failing in prior efforts to win over his fellow Democrats on a much broader and costlier package.

Why it matters: Biden is gambling that by endorsing the broad contours of the proposal, which he was immediately planning to sell in a meeting with House Democrats before jetting off to Europe, House progressives will vote for his $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan if and when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings it to the floor.