Last month I summarized Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s views on various environmental issues. Since then, the candidate completed an environmental and energy questionnaire from the Koch-supported American Energy Alliance that sheds further light on his thinking, or at least where his thinking isn’t.
One thing that stood out is that he seems to have backed away from his desire to completely eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, he wants more scrutiny:
Under my administration, all EPA rules will be reviewed. Any regulation that imposes undue costs on business enterprises will be eliminated.
Of course, EPA rulemaking already is required to take into account cost-benefit analyses in its major rules, but Trump answered affirmatively in the questionnaire that agencies have abused this analysis in order to give themselves more regulatory power.
On energy, he takes a position that may actually hurt the oil and gas industry:
Subsidies distort markets and should be used only when national security is at stake. Eventually, all subsidies should end so that the demand for energy will set prices, allow consumers access to the best values and encourage all facets of the energy industry to do all they can to keep their particular source competitive.
Ironically, the oil and gas industry receive significant subsidies from government, possibly close to $40 billion or more per year by some estimates. I’ve often thought of ending these subsidies as a sort of “dormant carbon tax,” because they could potentially raise the cost of oil and gas the way a carbon tax would.
But Trump seems to contradict himself somewhat in the next answer, where he says he favors subsidies if it means “energy independence.” He thinks that urgent need means “we must support all energy sources.” By that logic, he may be persuadable to support renewable energy and electric vehicles, although he rules out support for a carbon tax, which would be the most efficient way to boost energy independence and those clean technologies.
Trump also supports the renewable fuel standard (RFS) for the energy independence reason (although I’m sure Iowa politics played a role). He wants the RFS program to continue, although environmentalists don’t like the mandate because it doesn’t have an environmental screen on what fuel is produced. But that policy is actually an important backstop for California’s low-carbon fuel standard, which does have that screen (not that it’s a reason to keep the federal program as-is).
Trump went on to give muddled and confused answers on what the U.S. government should do with the federal land it owns (establish “a shared governance structure” with states) and on clean water (it’s the “responsibility of all citizens and governments” and “shared governance of waterways seems a logical way to go”).
Overall, a bit more of a window into the candidate’s thinking on issues. But these bits and pieces are all we’re likely to get at this point, given how little substance is on his website on environmental topics.