Looming Clinton win suggests American oil and gas sector needs to rethink politics, narrative

Trump

Republican candidate for president Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders, eco-activists would exert considerable influence in a Clinton Administration, Democratic Congress

The American oil and gas industry supports Donald Trump in part because the Republican candidate promises to get the sector out from underneath the thumb of Obama Administration regulation. Well, hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Trump

Donald Trump.

With only a few weeks remaining before election day, the big thinkers running US energy companies and trade associations need to contemplate a very likely scenario: President Hillary Clinton and Democratic control of Congress.

I follow Nate Silver’s polling analysis at fivethirtyeight.com because his model incorporates a wide variety of national, state and regional polls and he has a great track record, successfully picking the winners in all 50 states and D.C. in 2012.

Silver’s latest analysis suggests Republic voters have had it with Trump. Many are telling pollsters they don’t plan to vote on Nov. 8. Silver gives Trump just a 12.6 per cent chance of winning, compared to 87.4 per cent for Clinton. He gives the Democrats a 68.7 per cent chance of winning the Senate.

Handicapped by Republican control of the Senate and the House, President Obama was limited to using federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management to further his climate change agenda. Industry has complained bitterly over the past three or four years about the increasing burden and cost of those regulations.

Imagine how it will feel with another Democrat president, Democratic control of Congress, and a Democrat appointee to the Supreme Court (where much federal energy and climate regulation has ended up lately).

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Wait, it gets worse for the oil and gas industry.

As I explained in this column about the “Obama Two-Step,” the current president managed to walk the knife edge between an aggressive climate strategy while still not giving in to the most extreme elements of the environmental movement. Obama publicly pushed climate mitigation, then sent his cabinet secretaries and science advisors out to do battle with the keep-it-in-the-grounders and 100%-renewable-energy-now types.

Clinton won’t have that luxury.

Progressives like Prof. Cornell West and eco-activists like Bill McKibben fought Clinton forces tooth and nail in the trenches over the Democratic Convention platform. They mostly lost that battle in committee. Then Clinton tacked back to the centre during the campaign, arguing forcefully for more (fracked) natural gas as a bridge fuel to wean the country’s power generation system off coal.

But imagine this scenario.

First, in a Democratic-dominated Congress – or even just a Democratic Senate – progressive standard bearer Bernie Sanders will have a lot of clout. Especially after his strong showing in the primaries and his support of Clinton afterward. Expect the Wests and McKibbens of the party to exert influence on Sanders anti-fossil fuels agenda.

Second, in the past few weeks the North American environmental movement has taken a big step toward more radical, direct action politics. Greepeace, McKibben, and other eco-activist leaders publicly supported the Climate Direct Action pipeline tamperers, as well as the spiraling out of control protests over the Dakota Access pipeline construction in North Dakota. Eco-activists are ready to ratchet up civil disobedience in a significant way to oppose energy infrastructure projects. They will have allies in Sanders (who’s already called for a review of the Dakota Access permits) and other Democratic senators and representatives.

Imagine pipeline projects being subjected to further review for greenhouse emission and cultural impact assessments.

Imagine more severe restrictions – or even banning outright – of oil and gas production on federal lands and waters.

Imagine much stricter regulations on fugitive methane emissions than the Obama Administration contemplated.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Wait, it gets even worse for the oil and gas industry.

American public support is rising for renewable energy and falling for fossil fuels. Pew Research Centre polls show voters are split along partisan lines, with liberal Democrats opposing expansion of oil and gas production and centrist Democrats leaning toward wind and solar.

I suspect a President Clinton would have her finger to the climate and energy political winds, which don’t favor the oil and gas industry, and in truth haven’t for some time.

The political trends are just not friendly to industry.

A wise politician once said that to enjoy political success, politicians must find a parade and get out in front of it. Oil and gas producers could face even greater regulatory head winds in 2017 onward just as oil and gas prices recover, which may embolden lawmakers and regulators to be even tougher on US companies.

At this point in the 2016 election campaign, Hillary Clinton, the Democrats, and the eco-activists appear to be the drum majors and the energy industry appears to be the guy at the back with a shovel.

Which is why the oil and gas sector may want to start thinking about new political strategies and public narratives if the unthinkable happens on election day.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

trump

Ph: 432-978-5096 Website: www.mapleleafmarketinginc.com

Posted in: Markham on Energy

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