Fred Palmer: Paris Climate Agreement and the ‘America First’ Energy Plan

President Donald Trump delivered one of his most important campaign speeches at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota on May 26, 2016. During the headlines-making speech, Trump presented his “America First Energy Plan,” a fundamentally different path for the U.S. fossil-fuel industry.

Trump’s plan called for a significant expansion of the oil, natural gas, and clean-coal industries. In the same speech, the future president pledged to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, which had been signed by President Barack Obama in 2016.  The Paris agreement calls for America to drastically reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions in the name of slowing or preventing human-caused climate change.

During the eight years of the Obama administration, the federal government put into place a series of regulations designed to reduce and ultimately eliminate fossil fuels as an American energy source, and the Paris agreement was meant to continue Obama’s anti-fossil-fuel legacy in the future.

Policies that aim to reverse and disparage CO2 use have always been popular in the media, among ensconced government bureaucrats, and in academic circles, but they are anathema to the men and women who work in industry and agriculture. In my view, Trump is in the White House today largely because of that North Dakota energy speech. And if you doubt it, take a look at an election map showing the results of the 2016 presidential race. You’ll see that 84 percent of the nation is colored red, with huge majorities of Trump voters residing in America’s Heartland.

The Heartland and its various industries have for many decades depended on fossil fuels in one form or another, and the people living there know it, which is bad news for anti-energy Democrats, who could remain out of power in the Heartland for a decade or more.

Both the Trump speech and his plan were roundly criticized by media elites, academics, and those who make a living regulating people’s lives. Their argument has been and remains today that Trump’s America First Energy Plan is proof the president is ignorant about the supposed benefits of limiting fossil-fuel production and the potential of the alternative-energy market. There is also a lot of anger that’s derived from Trump’s rejection of policies that aim to fight climate change by reducing CO2. But on both scores, it’s the elites that are the ignorant ones.

Ramping up fossil-fuel production will spur economic growth, and thus help to balance the budget; fund infrastructure projects; and allow all Americans to enjoy a higher quality of life.

A massive world market is eager to see the United States increase its production and energy exports. Billions of people around the world go without energy every day, and billions more people will soon be living in the same countries where energy poverty is currently endemic. America’s fossil-fuel industries could help these people enjoy the prosperity and comfort of a middle-class lifestyle and all the benefits that come with it, including living longer.

Trump understands the potential for fossil fuels better than any American political leader in modern history. He has made the media and the eco-left crazy because he has refused to embrace their vision of apocalyptic global warming. That, in their eyes, is the president’s cardinal sin, but the Heartland sees it as a virtue.

The president’s call to withdraw from Paris was as sound as his support for policies that would help the country secure energy dominance. Of course, not everyone agrees. Some Republicans, including people within Trump’s own team, believe America should “stay in Paris.” This would be a massive mistake. Paris is an impediment to human development. Using fossil fuels to power the world is the only realistic way to bring billions of people out of poverty and provide affordable and abundant energy for the billions more that will soon join us on Earth.

As I compose this today the news is full of stories that President Trump does indeed intend to keep the campaign pledge to withdraw from Paris.  All praise, Mr. President, and please adhere to this path even as the Swamp, the Europeans and the major media all try to dishonestly shame you into staying in Paris.

Stay on the course that recognizes the Paris agreement incorrectly demonizes carbon and CO2 emissions. Stay on the course that recognizes the Paris agreement is deeply flawed as it would put the world on a path to eliminate the use of fossil fuels.

Americans and people everywhere would be deeply harmed by staying in Paris. While the lawyers and experts figure out how to the undo the legal and diplomatic labyrinth the Obama team put in place to protect his flawed legacy, the American people, the world community and the natural environment will all benefit as Team Trump manages our energy policy and vast fossil fuel resources to fulfill their America First Energy Plan.

Fred Palmer (fpalmer@heartland.orgis a senior fellow for energy policy at The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank founded in 1984 and based in Arlington Heights, Illinois.


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