By Mitch Borden
For the first time as President, Donald Trump visited Midland and Odessa, the two cities at the center of America’s most productive oil field — the Permian Basin. He had two goals in mind for the trip, to drum up funds for his reelection bid and reinforce his image as a champion of the oil industry.
Which he did as he outlined the stakes of the upcoming November elections to a crowd of supporters in front of an oil rig near Midland.
Air Force One landed at the Midland International Air And Space Port just before noon on Wednesday morning. In the distance, locals waved Trump 2020 flags as the president descended from the plane and was greeted by state and local leaders along with two Odessa high school students.
He then got into his motorcade and was whisked off to a private campaign fundraiser in Odessa, where attendees paid $2,800 to attend, and some shelled out $100,000 to participate in a roundtable discussion with the president. Texas politicians from all over the state joined Trump for the event, including U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott, and U.S. Representative Mike Conaway, who represents Midland and Odessa.
After spending a few hours in Odessa, Trump made his way to an oil rig owned by Double Eagle Energy just outside of Midland. There he gave a fiery speech to a crowd as huge Texas and American flags suspended from a drilling rig fluttered in the distance behind him.
He began his speech by leveling false attacks against the Obama Administration.
“Under the last administration, America’s energy industry was under relentless and unceasing attack.” Trump said, “But the day I took office we ended the war on energy and stopped the far left assault on America’s energy workers.”
In reality, both crude oil and natural gas production increased during the Obama presidency and the United States lifted a crude export ban in 2015 that had been in place for decades. A huge win for the oil industry advocates at the time.
Then Trump quickly listed off accomplishments of his administration that he says point to his support for the oil and gas industry. He cited actions such as opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling, leaving the Paris Climate Agreement, and rolling back Obama era regulations targeted to protect the environment.
Despite these actions, thousands of oil workers in the Permian Basin, and across the country, have lost their jobs under Trump’s watch this year. Earlier this spring, oil prices nose-dived thanks to the one-two punch of reduced demand during the pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia that flooded the market with cheap crude. At the worst point, in April, oil prices fell into negative territory for the first time in history.
Now, prices have stabilized at around $40 a barrel, which is still too low for many companies to make a profit. That fact didn’t stop Trump from proclaiming that brighter days are ahead for the oil and gas industry, thanks to his administration brokering a truce in the Russian-Saudi price war in the spring.
“We’re okay now. We are back,” he said. “We were very close to losing a very powerful great industry…now we’re back and we are only going to keep expanding.”
But, Trump claimed that the current positive outlook for the oil industry is only insured if he and fellow Republicans stay in power.“The radical left,” Trump said, “Is fighting to abolish American energy, destroy the oil and gas industry, and wipe out your jobs.”
At this point, the focus of the speech narrowed to attacking the energy and environmental goals of his rival in the 2020 presidential election, presumed Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump claimed Biden wants to ban fracking on federal land when in fact the former vice president wants to halt issuing new drilling permits on public lands but does not support a total ban on fracking. Trump also targeted Biden’s stance that America should have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Trump claimed that goal is impossible and would lead to:
“No drilling, no coal, no oil, no shale, no gas, no oil.” He continued, with a misleading claim, “If [Democrats win] you will have no more energy coming out of the great state of Texas. Out of New Mexico. Out of anywhere.”
Trump did not touch on alternative energy at all in his remarks, which is a growing industry in Texas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Lone Star State leads the country in wind energy and has great potential for expanding its solar power capacity.
The speech went beyond warnings against Democratic policies, when Trump launched a series of misleading claims about liberals as a whole.
“They want to uproot and demolish every American value, they want to wipe away every trace of religion in national life, they want to indoctrinate our children, abolish the police, insight riots, and leave every city at the mercy of the radical left,” the President said.
These comments — most of which are unfounded — come after weeks of national protests against police brutality, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. The Trump administration has come under intense scrutiny for its use of force against peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., and its decision to deploy federal agents to Portland, OR.
Trump concluded his speech by signing four permits that authorize the operation of existing pipelines as well as the build-out of new railways along the southern border that he said will help companies export more oil to Mexico.