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Achieve energy independence

“Under my presidency, we will accomplish a complete American energy independence. Complete. Complete."


Achieve energy independence

PolitiFact is tracking the promises of President Donald Trump. See them all at PolitiFact.com.

Donald Trump’s energy strategy as president is stacked full of promises aimed at achieving one goal: energy independence.

All of the details of Trump’s promises are included in his “An America First Energy Plan,” which includes rolling back environmental regulations and increasing drilling on federal land.

“Under my presidency, we will accomplish a complete American energy independence. Complete. Complete,” Trump said in a speech in May 2016, during the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, N.D.

He continued: "Imagine a world in which our foes and the oil cartels can no longer use energy as a weapon. Wouldn't that be nice?"

The United States is closer to independence than dependence, and getting closer every year, but, it’s still not independent. While there’s no strict definition for  “energy independence,” experts said Trump’s promise is possible under a loose definition.

WHY HE’S PROMISING IT

Trump said energy independence will stop other countries from using oil as a political weapon.

Perhaps the most notable instance of this was in 1973 when Arab countries within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) placed an oil embargo on the United States and the Netherlands for providing support to Israel in the Yom Kippur War.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

Trump has said he will tap into untouched shale, oil and natural gas reserves, reduce regulation and encourage the use of natural gas in order to become energy independent.

Robert Godby, the director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policies at the University of Wyoming, said energy independence has multiple definitions.

Energy independence in its strongest form can mean the United States produces as much energy as it uses (we currently produce a little less than 90 percent of the total energy we use), but Godby said the definition is usually weakened to simply mean creating an environment where prices and supply are stable.

Although we don’t know for certain yet what a Trump Administration wants to achieve, it seems most likely Trump’s promise falls into the broadest category where the supply and price of energy is stable.

Under these definitions, Godby said Trump could attempt to achieve the goal of producing as much energy as we use by opening up production and reducing regulation. He could also do so if he encouraged the use of renewable energy within the industry, though his policy promises have been mostly silent on renewable policy.

COST

One of the reasons the United States imports a portion of its energy is because of costs. When oil prices fall, U.S. energy companies reduce production. Even the lowest-cost U.S. oil producers are still more expensive than producers in the Middle East. It’s unclear if independence would be economically sensible given the volatility of the energy market.

WHAT IS STANDING IN HIS WAY

Godby said that Trump’s route toward the goal of energy independence could have unintended consequences and such actions may affect other industries and other promises.

For instance, Trump has promised to work to save coal-miner jobs, but that goal might be harder if, by lifting regulations on the natural gas industry he causes natural gas production to increase.

“We can’t think about energy policy as separate from economic, environmental and trade policies. Trump’s administration is going to have to sort through the unintended consequences of pursuing any new energy policies,” Godby said.

TIMELINE

Depending on whom you ask, the United States could produce the same amount of energy it consumes within the next five to 10 years, which would meet one definition of energy independence.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that United States imports will come into balance with exports between 2019 and 2040, depending on the cost of oil and the availability of different gas resources.