In the July 31 Democratic presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden gave this reponse to a question about whether he would continue to support the production of domestic coal, oil and natural gas resources: “No. We would work it out. We would make sure it’s eliminated, and no more subsidies for either one of those, period.” Note the word “eliminated.” Not limited, not regulated, not discouraged – eliminated.
In a speech on August 22, fellow candidate Bernie Sanders had this to say: "Fossil fuel executives should be criminally prosecuted for the destruction they have knowingly caused." Sanders could have said those executives “should” be prosecuted. He could have said they “might” be prosecuted. Instead, reading from a pre-written script, he said they “should” be prosecuted. And not in a civil case, mind you, but “criminally” prosecuted.
These two blanket, pointed, unqualified statements by the two leading candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination raise the specter of an all-out war on the oil and gas industry during the next Democratic presidential administration, regardless of who that Democrat happens to be. This is especially true since every other candidate for the nomination has issued similar statements of hostility directed at fossil fuels.
Given the party’s near-unanimous adoption of various climate change plans based off of the “Green New Deal” proposed by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, this really should come as no surprise to those who pay close attention to national politics.
But you can bet many industry executives, most of whom don’t pay close attention to national politics but pay employees whose job it is to do so, were somewhat taken aback by the Biden and Sanders statements. This would be especially true since industry executives as a class overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race based largely on the advice given to them by those employees.
The fact that neither Biden nor Sanders has made any effort to walk their comments back as of this writing raises a legitimate question about which party’s candidate these executives will support with hundreds of thousands of their personal dollars next year. In 2016, most were glad to support the Democrat nominee for a variety of reasons: Many did not approve of candidate Trump’s personal behavior in the past and present; many didn’t like his Tweets, a Trump practice that has only become amplified with time; and pretty much none of them believed Trump had any chance of winning, in part because that was what they were being advised by those employees they paid to pay attention to such things.
Luckily for them and their companies, President Trump didn’t hold a grudge. The Trump plan for “Energy Dominance” was and has continued to be a key centerpiece of his economic and international policy agenda, an agenda that he has aggressively implemented. Through a series of executive orders and regulatory actions too numerous to detail here, the Trump Administration done much to enable the ongoing domestic oil and natural gas boom, despite the industry’s failure to support his 2016 campaign in any meaningful way.
Now comes the 2020 campaign and another choice:
Will these executives throw their support to the incumbent who has done so much to stimulate their industry even though they disapprove of his personality and tweets?
Or will they once again pour large parts of their personal fortunes into the campaign of the nominee of a political party that seems to be hell-bent on putting their companies out of business?
An equally interesting question is what will the government affairs employees advise them to do this time around? From a logical standpoint, this would not seem to be a very difficult choice.
But hey, when has logic ever been determinative in the world of U.S. politics?