Trump's "America First" energy plan is a losing proposition for industry. Here's why.

Ben N. Ratner

This post was co-authored by Sean Wright.

The same week in June that Apple raised $1 billion through green bonds to invest in clean energy, and Amazon put solar panels on a 1 million-square-foot processing facility, the Trump administration – at the urging of some oil and natural gas producers – proposed a two-year delay of rules limiting emissions of methane and other air pollutants.

It showed how out of step the administration is with leading American brands and global shifts in energy technology – but also that it lacks the leadership that businesses, the engine of our economy, need and deserve.

Pro-business politicians with a long-term vision help industry adapt and adjust to a changing world. They propose policies with an eye toward the future, and consult with the brightest minds to better understand global market trends.

Today, energy trends point away from policies that give polluters free rein and instead toward management that reduces waste, slows climate change and brings us cleaner air. A single presidency doesn’t change this trajectory, or that of a global economy.

But President Trump and the man he picked to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, are not asking how America’s natural gas industry will operate 5-10-20 years down the line in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.

Instead, they listened to a few industry players eager to cut costs and to maximize profits in the short-term, while shirking their responsibility to help America’s booming natural gas industry stay competitive for decades to come.

Investors: We can’t afford climate risks

More than ever before, environmental concerns are factoring into investment decisions, and sometimes even steering them.

Investors with $10 trillion in assets under management have already committed to the Montreal Carbon Pledge, which requires them to reduce the carbon footprint of their portfolios, with an eye toward full decarbonization over time.

62% of investors demanded better climate-risk disclosure from Exxon management.

As part of the shift to assets in lower-emitting companies and industries, investors are also demanding better carbon and methane disclosure along with proactive environmental management.

The recent watershed Exxon vote, for example – in which 62 percent of investors demanded better climate-risk disclosure from Exxon management – showed that carbon risk considerations have hit the mainstream.

Which brings us back to methane emissions and the continuing waste of a natural resource from our oil and natural gas operations.

Trump’s policies could bring everybody down

States such as Colorado show that methane leaks can, in fact, be managed cost-effectively and without harming production – just as investors demand. And yet, politicians in Washington are trying to stymie federal policies that help secure industry’s social license to operate.

It will set up laggards for failure as investors and citizens continue to scrutinize the environmental record of oil and natural gas companies, while ultimately dragging all companies down.

Natural gas has been branded as a cleaner transition fuel to a low-carbon economy, and now the Trump administration’s agenda could be ruining that brand. We think American businesses deserve better.

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