This is why Trump will be unambiguously pro-energy

Donald Trump
Mike Carlson | Reuters

Donald Trump heads to North Dakota, one of the states most impacted by the slump in oil and gas drilling, on Thursday.

That's where it is expected the GOP presidential candidate will lay out his vision of the energy industry in the U.S. and possibly the world, including the roles of Saudi Arabia and OPEC.

Trump's views on many topics are murky, and energy has been one of those areas. But Trump is now expected to fine tune his message.

"At one point, he was talking about taking away subsidies from oil companies. But he's evolved so where [Continental Resources CEO] Harold Hamm has now endorsed him," said Daniel Clifton, head of policy research at Strategas. Hamm, CEO of shale producer Continental Resources, was Mitt Romney's 2012 energy advisor.

Clifton says there is one thing Trump is likely to say that could help him against Democrat Hillary Clinton, the expected nominee of her party.

Trump has said he wants to help coal miners, and that he likes solar and ethanol. Clifton says he'll say he supports drilling of fossil fuels too.

"I think he comes out and says, 'I'm for all of the above' and makes it about jobs," said Clifton. Clifton said Trump could talk about reducing regulations, which would help coal.

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Clinton, on the other hand, has talked about upping regulations on the industry and said by the time she's done there will be few areas left in America where the industry could "frack," or drill through hydraulic fracturing.

She opposes fracking on public land and anywhere that local communities are against it, or wherever it polluted air or water. She also would oppose it if companies refused to disclose what chemicals they use in the process.

Clifton says Trump will capitalize on a problem that the Clinton camp faces. Energy is at the heart of a divide between two groups that are traditional Democratic supporters. Those are environmentalists, who oppose pipelines, and labor unions who want to build energy infrastructure.

The divide, apparent in the Keystone Pipeline battle, came to the fore earlier this month when several unions representing teachers and local government workers announced a partnership with wealthy environmentalist Tom Steyer for a new fund dedicated to electing Democrats.

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Cifton said the Obama Administration has become more aggressive against pipelines. He pointed to 20 infrastructure projects for pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities that have been rejected or delayed since November.

"We've had this massive change in U.S. energy policy since the Keystone Pipeline was rejected," said Clifton, adding the U.S. has also gotten stricter on methane emissions from wells.

Clifton expects Trump to support Keystone.

"I just don't think investors have fully realized this. I think what Trump is going to do is say, 'I want to put the AFL-CIO members to work who aren't getting work because these pipelines are getting rejected,'" said Clifton.

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Trump may also comment on the relationship with Saudi Arabia. In March, Trump said the U.S. may buy its oil elsewhere unless Saudi Arabia and others engage ISIS in ground combat.

North Dakota is also home to Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, who endorsed Trump and is an informal advisor on his campaign. Cramer co-sponsored a bill that would authorize a bipartisan commission to investigate OPEC for potential unfair trade practices.

Cramer told USA Today that he and Trump have not talked about Trump's position on the bill. "But we've all listened to him enough to know his America-first policy angle and emphasis, and it seems like it would fit with this," Cramer said.

"This is a way to make sure that now that we have access to global markets, that our competitors are playing by the same rules or at least fair rules," said Cramer in the article. "We can't change the fact that you can produce oil in the desert much cheaper than you can in the shale, but we shouldn't put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage."



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