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Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette during a February 13, 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

President Trump’s top energy chief speaks with Axios about America's oil boom, carbon emissions and more as they relate to the coronavirus outbreak.

Why it matters: U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette has been at the center of Trump’s efforts to help the oil industry struggling amid the pandemic.

Here are highlights from the interview (not yet covered in other stories):

AXIOS: You've said recently that America will remain energy independent after this. But, isn’t the fact the U.S. had to get so involved in last month's oil-production deal led by OPEC a sign that we’re still heavily dependent upon the global market, and thus not energy independent, despite being the world’s biggest producer of oil?

Brouillette: I see it the other way around. Forty years away ago, we couldn’t get involved because we were wholly dependent upon those imports for our economy. The mere fact we are independent, we are in fact energy dominant, allows us to have those conversations.
There is a big difference between being dependent and exercising trade amongst nations and that’s what you see in the oil markets today. Refiners set up for heavy sour [oil] and they choose to be that way. We’re engaging in trade with countries. That’s just fundamental.

The American Petroleum Institute has opposed any government support, especially for oil producers struggling before the pandemic. Do you agree?

Brouillette: There were companies perhaps headed toward insolvency pre-pandemic and those were … decisions made by independent companies. If they borrowed too much money or borrowed at a bad rate, those decisions are going to have consequences, and in our view the government should not step in to change the ultimate outcome. There are going to be people who are going to go by the wayside. They were going to go by the wayside regardless of the pandemic. I don’t think it’s appropriate for the government to step in and save people from bad decisions.

What's your response to the huge decline in emissions the pandemic is causing as large swaths of the world economy shuts down?

Brouillette: The initial estimates at least numbers I’m looking at suggest carbon emissions have been reduced fairly dramatically because we’ve shut down the economy, but I don’t think we’ve actually reached the numbers that are in the Paris Agreement.
It just gives you a sense of, perhaps, how unrealistic some of the goals are. What more do we have to do? We’ve practically shut down the world economy and we still haven’t met the goals that were set in the Paris Agreement. What more can we do? If we’re going to be serious about this, we have to get more serious about things like nuclear energy.

Economists generally say, the lower oil prices go now, the higher they will later. Are you concerned about eventually high oil — and thus gasoline — prices?

Brouillette: I’m not worried about it. I think as demand comes back you’ll see production come back in the United States again.

Go deeper, with more parts of Wednesday's interview:

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 20, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Electric trucks could make a "significant dent" in carbon emissions

Reproduced from Rhodium Group; Note: Low and high estimates based on COVID-19 trajectory and recovery; Chart: Axios Visuals

Electric trucks have the potential to displace enough oil to make a "significant dent" in transportation sector CO2 emissions, per a Rhodium Group analysis.

Why it matters: There's lots of buzz — and a lot of money — around electric trucks these days.

Rand Paul: No incentive to open economy "if you soften the amount of suffering"

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Fox News Wednesday that he opposes Congress passing more stimulus funding because "if you give people money and you make it less painful to be in a recession," governors "will not have an incentive" to reopen the economy.

Why it matters: Republicans and Democrats remain deadlocked over the next coronavirus stimulus package. The Trump administration has said it is willing to pass a bill at a lower price tag than House Democrats' $3 trillion proposal, but some Republicans — like Paul and other deficit hawks — have said there is no need.

DOJ watchdog to probe whether officials sought to alter election results

Former President Donald Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 20. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department's inspector general will investigate whether any current or former DOJ officials "engaged in improper attempt to have DOJ seek to alter the outcome" of the 2020 election, the agency announced Monday.

Driving the news: The investigation comes in the wake of a New York Times report that alleged that Jeffrey Clark, the head of DOJ's civil division, had plotted with President Trump to oust acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen in a scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia.