Fact Check: Trump’s Misleading Words on Energy and Jobs

Source: By LINDA QIU, The New York Times • Posted: Wednesday, March 29, 2017

President Trump was joined by a group of coal miners on Tuesday as he signed an executive order that rolled back many of President Barack Obama’s climate-change efforts. Stephen Crowley/The New York Times 

WASHINGTON — In his first major move to undo President Barack Obama’s climate change policies, President Trump declared Tuesday the beginning of a “new era in American energy and production and job creation.”

Here is an assessment of his claims about energy production and jobs.

Mr. Trump said his executive order would pave the way for energy independence.

“First, today’s energy independence action calls for an immediate re-evaluation of the so-called Clean Power Plan.” 

This is misleading. Mr. Trump’s executive order is the start of the process to withdraw the Clean Power Plan, Mr. Obama’s signature rule that regulates carbon emissions from power plants.

The United States has been exporting more coal than it has produced for the past decade, and is expected to become a net exporter of natural gas by 2018, even with the Clean Power Plan in place, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.

Over all, the energy information agency projects that the United States will be a net exporter in most cases this year. The Keystone XL Pipeline, which Mr. Trump reminded that he had approved, will carry foreign oil into the United States.

Mr. Trump characterized the Clean Power Plan as a threat to coal miners.

“Perhaps no single regulation threatens our miners, energy workers and companies more than this crushing attack on American industry.” 

This is misleading. The rule was announced in August 2015, and halted by the Supreme Court the next February. During that time, there were about 9,300 fewer coal mining jobs.

But Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that coal mining jobs have been on the decline since the 1980s, the earliest data available.

The trend is more attributable to an increase in natural gas production and an increase in automation, as The New York Times’s Coral Davenport has reported. Rolling back the Clean Power Plan will not change either of these two forces.

Mr. Trump claimed the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines would create thousands of jobs.

“We approved the permit to finally build the Keystone XL Pipeline and clear the way to completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, thousands and thousands of jobs.”

This needs context. Keystone would support 42,000 temporary jobs in its two-year construction period, about 3,900 of which are in construction, according to a State Department report from 2014. After this initial phase, the pipeline would create about 35 permanent, full-time jobs.

Similarly, the Dakota Access Pipeline is expected to support 8,000 to 12,000 temporary construction jobs and up to 40 permanent jobs, the Brookings Institution found.

Mr. Trump took credit for job growth in the first two months of 2017.

“We’ve already created a half a million new jobs in the first two jobs reports of my administration.”

This is misleading. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 238,000 jobs in January and 235,000 jobs in February. This is healthy, but it’s more attributable to the policies of Mr. Obama.

As Neil Irwin has reported for The Upshot, Mr. Trump “has virtually nothing to do with the most recent economic statistics.” The January jobs report was conducted before Mr. Trump took office, and the February report reflects conditions roughly three weeks into his presidency and before he had enacted any significant economic policies.

Mr. Trump took credit for Ford’s manufacturing expansion.

“And if you notice today, Ford, great company, announced massive new spending on three big plants in the state of Michigan, the state which I love very much. Do you remember what happened in Michigan? Remember, November 8, oh, that was an exciting Michigan evening.” 

This needs context. Mr. Trump won Michigan by just under 11,000 votes on Nov. 8 and has repeatedly singled out the Detroit-based automaker for its investment plans during and after the election.

Ford announced a $1.2 billion investment in three Michigan facilities on Tuesday morning, which the president immediately praised on Twitter. But Ford had previously agreed to the investment in a labor contract with the United Automobile Workers. In November 2015, the company pledged $9 billion over four years in United States plants.

Mr. Trump said he has mandated pipelines to be built with U.S. steel.

This came up a little bit coincidentally when I was signing the pipeline deals. I’m all signing, I’ve got them done. And I said, folks, when do we get this deal? And they said, I think it’s from foreign lands. I said no good. Who makes it, who makes those beautiful pipes for the pipeline? Sir, they’re made outside of this country, and I said no more, no more. So we added a little clause, didn’t take much, that you want to build pipelines in this country, you’re going to buy your steel and you’re going to have it fabricated here.

This needs context. Mr. Trump signed a presidential memorandum requiring domestic steel in new pipelines four days after he took office, but the White House has suggested that the Keystone Pipeline is exempt because it is not a “new” pipe. By this logic, the directive would not apply to the Dakota Access Pipeline either.

Neither of Mr. Trump’s memos greenlighting the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines includes language requiring American steel.