On Trump's New Energy Advisor

over 3 years ago

Last week, energy and environment news reels exploded with the report that presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump had selected Rep. Kevin Cramer, the at-large Congressman from fossil fuel heavy North Dakota, to advise his campaign on energy issues. While headlines focused on Cramer's self professed label as a climate skeptic, the fine print suggests a more nuanced positioning.

What Cramer actually said about climate change is: "I've been skeptical, but I don't resist the reality that we're heading toward or our goal is a more carbon-constrained world." The realization that America is not going to lead the global energy race on more coal mining jobs alone is a good step in the right direction, particularly given recent promises by Trump to reinvigorate a struggling U.S. coal industry.

Again, in Cramer's own words: "My advice would be, while I'm a skeptic, as well, [Trump] is a product of political populism, and political populism believes that there needs [to be] some addressing of climate change." With 56 percent of Trump's supporters acknowledging the climate is changing and 49 percent saying the U.S. should reduce its emissions, connecting these dots could be critical in a Trump administration.

Cramer, a former utility regulator, has said that he believes a carbon tax is preferable to federal regulation in tackling emissions. "If in fact [Trump] wants a more carbon-restrained energy policy, he ought to work with real scientists and work with Congress to come up with a better one," Cramer said. But Trump quickly shot down speculation that he would get behind a carbon tax, tweeting on Friday: "I will not support or endorse a carbon tax!"

Short of being anointed as a future Trump Administration energy czar, Cramer is committed to drafting a couple of energy white papers, a common practice for many senior campaign supporters. Time will tell whether this role morphs into something bigger—and how much influence he wields— as the campaign rolls toward November.