Second Trump presidency would axe Biden climate agenda, gut energy regulators

By Thomson Reuters Feb 16, 2024 | 5:15 AM

By Valerie Volcovici and Gram Slattery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden has spent years implementing programs to fight climate change by advancing renewable energy and imposing tougher regulations on fossil fuels. Much of that work could go up in smoke if his likely rival Donald Trump beats him at the polls in November, according to Republican policy advisers.

Former President Trump, who is on track to clinch the Republican nomination, would re-enter the White House with a raft of executive orders to expand oil, gas and coal development, they said. That would include ending a pause on new LNG export permits, scrapping electric vehicle mandates and once again withdrawing the United States from a United Nations pact to fight global warming, they said.

Those short-term actions would be followed by longer-term efforts to shrink environmental regulation and government bureaucracy, and – depending on the makeup of Congress at the time – to unwind provisions of Biden’s signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act.

Some advisers are also pushing Trump to turn over some federally-owned land, potentially including national forests, to the states, said one person involved in those discussions.

Reuters spoke with a dozen Republican policy consultants and former Trump administration officials who are helping lay the groundwork for a second Trump presidency to sketch out the administration’s likely approach to energy and environmental issues.

Five of the sources told Reuters they had been in contact with the Trump campaign since it launched its White House bid, while others said they were preparing detailed policy papers and staffing ideas aligned with Trump’s campaign rhetoric that they hoped he would use if elected.

The policy blueprint shows how a second Trump presidency would bring about another U-turn in U.S. policies governing how the country produces and uses energy, and how the biggest historical emitter of greenhouse gases deals with the climate threat.

The talking points also tap a deep U.S. political divide between a progressive left pushing for a move away from fossil fuels, and a conservative right incensed by environmental regulations they say kill blue-collar jobs.

“This is a great way to split off working class Americans from the Democrats, especially unionized households,” said Stephen Moore, an economist and fellow at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, who has advised Trump’s campaign in an unofficial capacity in recent months.

“It’s a teed-up political issue for the Republicans. Trump gets that totally.”

Among the other people Trump speaks with directly to discuss energy issues, according to the sources, are his former National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, former senior adviser Kevin Hassett and oil mogul Harold Hamm.

Those people either did not respond or declined to comment for this article.

Trump’s campaign in a statement said that a Trump presidency would “unleash American Energy to lower inflation for all Americans, pay down debt, strengthen national security, and establish the United States as the manufacturing superpower of the world.”


Energy is already a daily talking point in Trump’s campaign: He routinely slams the Biden administration’s EV policies and chants “drill, baby, drill” at rallies to rile up his base.

The Trump campaign’s website has also outlined some of the former president’s broad energy priorities, calling for the country to have the cheapest energy prices in the world through expanded drilling, speedy permitting of new energy projects, and regulatory rollbacks.

Trump’s campaign website also calls for the removal of the United States from the Paris climate agreement, the international accord to fight global warming. Trump formally withdrew the U.S. during his first term in office but Biden swiftly reversed the move in 2021.

George David Banks, former special assistant to Trump on energy, told Reuters he and others, like the former president’s daughter Ivanka, had attempted to convince Trump to stay in the agreement, but that Trump declined, saying: “I just wouldn’t know how to message that to my base.”

One thing that may be different in a second Trump presidency, however, is how he picks his top staff, and whether he will have a Republican-controlled Congress to allow him to defang federal agencies that regulate industries and weaken bedrock environmental laws.

The Heritage Foundation and the America First Policy Institute said they are doing preparatory work to ensure a potential second Trump administration can avoid what was sometimes seen as a chaotic first term – beset by scandals – and which can make policy changes that stand up in court.

The Heritage Foundation and a few dozen conservative groups, for example, have created a database of policy experts that they have informally dubbed “a conservative LinkedIn” that can be used to staff a future Republican administration.

“A big lesson that everybody in the first Trump administration learned was that personnel is really important. It took a couple or three years to get the people they wanted to have in place,” said Mike McKenna, a lobbyist who was a White House adviser to Trump on energy and climate change.


Heritage and the America First Policy Institute, a Trump-aligned think tank, are also looking at ways Trump could scrap the clean energy and vehicle tax breaks in Biden’s roughly $400 billion climate legislation, the IRA.

But getting this done will depend on whether Republicans control both the House and Senate after November’s elections.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a Heritage fellow, said the IRA’s credits for EV purchases would likely be among the first parts of the IRA to get targeted by a Republican-controlled Congress, but that other elements could also be considered for reversal, including tax breaks for renewable energy projects and efficient appliances, and funding for environmental justice programs.

The idea of taking a hatchet to the entire IRA could, however, give some oil industry officials and Republican politicians pause, a former Trump administration official said.

That is because some tax credits in the IRA, like those for carbon capture and sequestration projects or for green hydrogen manufacturing have been popular with the oil and gas industry.

The EV and renewable energy tax credits in the IRA have also spurred a surge of new manufacturing investment that has mostly benefited Republican states, suggesting that reversing them could face state-level opposition within the party.

“This is going to be a place where the oil and gas industry and President Trump don’t see eye to eye,” the former administration official said.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Deepa Babington)