May 19, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Q&A with Trump's energy chief: Carbon emissions, oil and more

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

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand has only eight active novel coronavirus cases and no COVID-19 patients in hospital after another day of zero new infections. However, the death toll rose to 22.

Zoom in: A top health official told a briefing a 96-year-old woman "was regarded to having recovered from COVID-19 at the time of her death, and COVID-19 is not recorded as the primary cause of her death on her death certificate." But it was decided to include her in the overall tally of deaths related to the virus.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 5,690,951 — Total deaths: 355,575 — Total recoveries — 2,350,071Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,699,073 — Total deaths: 100,396 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. Public health: CDC issues guidelines for reopening officesFauci says data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine.
  4. States: California hospitals strained by patients in MexicoTexas Supreme Court blocks mail-in expansion to state voters.
  5. Business: MGM plans to reopen major Las Vegas resorts in June — African American business owners have seen less relief from PPP, Goldman Sachs says.
  6. Tech: AI will help in the pandemic — but it might not be in time for this one.
  7. World: EU proposes a massive pandemic rescue package.
  8. 1 🎶 thing: Local music venues get rocked by coronavirus.
  9. 🎧 Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter ... vs. Trump.
  10. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 37 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

More than 100,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins — a milestone that puts the death toll far beyond some of the most tragic events in U.S. history.

By the numbers: Over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Nearly 354,000 Americans have recovered and over 15.1 million tests have been conducted. California became the fourth state with at least 100,000 reported cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, along with Illinois, New Jersey and New York.