Of all the things Trump has promised, the one he’s most likely to actually do is drill, baby, drill. Including maybe off the West Coast.
At the 2008 Republican convention in Minnesota, I was there, standing on the floor, when a low-level speaker in an otherwise mundane speech came out with the phrase “Drill, baby, drill!”
It took off. The delegates began chanting it at every opportunity. It became the defining prime-time feature of that convention, and it was adopted as a personal rallying cry by none other than Sarah Palin.
To me, it sure seemed odd. How could people be that excited about oil drilling? At the time, I wrote that it was more like attending a meeting of the Petroleum Association than a national political party.
When I asked delegates, their policy reasons were clear enough: Oil means jobs. But there was something more visceral going on, a deeper feeling that green energy such as solar was liberal, flimsy and weak. So the chant wasn’t just about oil. It was a call to make America tough again.
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I figured that craze had withered away, as I hadn’t heard the chant much since (this year, their tough-guy chant was “Lock her up!”). But the feelings behind it obviously hadn’t gone away. Because now it turns out that “Drill, baby, drill” not only may help explain this past election, but it will be a key driver of what happens when Donald Trump takes office in January.
The Atlantic magazine recently noted a phenomenon it dubbed “The Carbon Connection.” It turns out Trump won all the states with the most per-capita carbon emissions, except for one (New Mexico). Hillary Clinton won all the lowest-emitting states (including Washington, which has the eighth-lowest emissions per capita in the nation, according to federal energy data).
This doesn’t mean energy or the environment drove the vote. But emissions do signify the makeup of a state’s economy. The top emitters are either big fossil-fuel producers or heavy manufacturing states, The Atlantic said, while the low-emission states are “much further along in the transition to a postindustrial economy.”
More crucially for 2017, the carbon connection means there’s now a powerful alliance in place for Trump to deliver on one of his most grandiose promises — that he’s going to drill this nation like nobody’s drilled it before.
Trump’s energy plan, still on his website, reads like a Petroleum Association fantasy. It calls for tapping trillions of dollars in oil reserves, opening up offshore drilling (including possibly along the West Coast, though senators here are trying to pre-emptively block that) and mining “hundreds of years” of coal deposits, including on publicly owned lands.
A group of U.S. House Republicans, emboldened by Trump’s election, just released a plan to promote drilling, repeal regulations related to climate change, and even roll back new vehicle fuel-efficiency standards the trucking industry agreed to only a few months ago.
“A Trump Administration will focus on real environmental challenges, not phony ones,” Trump’s energy plan says — an apparent reference to climate change.
I bring all this up because people keep wondering which of Trump’s many shifting pledges he will follow through with once he takes office. But you can chant right along with this one: He’s going to drill, baby, drill.
It perfectly aligns with his core constituencies. Take his other big promises. He wants to repeal Obamacare, and he very well may. But the political difficulty there is the red parts of the country are more dependent on Obamacare than the blue.
Same with illegal immigration. Businesses in red parts of the country depend more on undocumented labor than do those in blue parts. So mass deportation is likely to prove a lot trickier than it sounded on the campaign trail.
But with energy, everybody red is riding down the track on the same oil train. It’s why Trump’s cabinet is being filled with oil executives and climate-change deniers. The industry magazine Oil and Gas Investor called what Trump was assembling a “hydrocarbon council.”
It’s ironic, but unlike back in 2008, this year there wasn’t much chanting about drilling. Debate moderators asked no questions about the environment. But it’s driving the agenda now.