The United States has to protect its domestic oil industry and should make no apologies for being one of the world's largest energy consumers, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump's new energy adviser said Thursday.
Rep. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota's sole member of the House of Representatives and a self-proclaimed climate skeptic, wants a congressional commission to investigate the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries — the Saudi Arabia-dominated cartel that drove prices down from more than $100 a barrel to the mid-40s today. Cramer said the fracking boom that made his state the No. 2 oil producer in the country is surviving the nearly 2-year-old crash in oil prices, and he told a Washington conference Thursday morning that the Saudis "probably regret picking this battle."
"The cartel thought they could drive North Dakota out of the business long ago by lowering prices," Cramer said. But he said his home-state producers adapted by cutting prices and speeding up production, and launching an investigation of OPEC "sends the message that you're not going to get by with collusion or monopoly tactics."
The two-term Republican congressman was an early Trump supporter and has been a vociferous critic of environmental regulations. As he seeks a third term, the oil and gas industry has pumped nearly $200,000 into his war chest so far, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending.
Cramer was one of dozens of members of Congress who signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon emissions from electrical plants by 30 percent by 2030. The plan, which has been placed on hold by the US Supreme Court, is the centerpiece of the US pledge in the newly signed Paris climate accord.
More recently, he called the EPA's new rule limiting methane leaks from oil and gas infrastructure "another one-size-fits-all sledgehammer" aimed at the oil and gas industry. And as someone who's called the science behind global warming "fraudulent," he has swiftly become a target for environmental groups.
"Donald Trump's campaign is a clown car full of climate deniers that churns out half-baked ideas regularly, which explains why his advisers are pushing him to oppose the job-creating, life-saving Clean Power Plan," Sierra Club Political Director Khalid Pitts said in a Thursday broadside. "Large majorities of Americans back the Clean Power Plan, but Trump's campaign is more concerned with reality TV than reality, so we shouldn't expect them to understand that."
Cramer's office did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
In a 2013 radio interview, Cramer said scientists were manipulating climate data and that global temperatures were actually going down. He also signed a pledge to oppose any tax increases to address climate change — a pledge circulated by Americans for Prosperity, the conservative lobbying group bankrolled by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch.
But he's toned down that criticism in the past year, and told ClimateWire last week that while he still considers himself a skeptic, he recognizes the world is moving toward "a more carbon-constrained" society.
But Cramer's muted skepticism still puts him closer to the scientific consensus than the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Trump has called climate change "bullshit" and a Chinese plot to cripple American industry. He told Reuters this week that he wants to renegotiate the Paris climate agreement that the United States and nearly 200 other countries hammered out in December, because other countries might cheat.
The League of Conservation Voters on Thursday called Cramer and Trump "two peas in the climate denial pod, who would make reckless attacks on the progress we have made in the fight against climate change."
"News reports reveal that climate denier Cramer appears to be recommending environmental policies that include attacks on the Clean Power Plan, renewable energy and methane rules — which would only move our country backwards and threaten our health and economy," LCV spokesman Seth Stein said in a written statement. "Trump continues to show dangerously poor judgment on climate and is out of step with the majority of Americans who are urging action on climate change."
Cramer avoided presidential politics or climate during his Thursday remarks. But he said the United States should see its appetite for energy as a sign of a healthy economy.
"We want to have a vibrant economy where fossil fuels, where any type of energy development or consumption, as a leading economic indicator, says, 'This is a robust country,' " he said.
"We used to and we still, sometimes, apologize when we're using more energy but the use of energy is an indicator of how strong an economy is. I sometimes think we need to change our mindset a little bit."
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