Donald Trump is not known for putting the interests of the American people above those of the fossil fuel industry. Since taking office, the president has expanded the liberty of coal companies to dump mining waste in streams, opened up federal lands and coastal areas to oil drilling, moved to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accords, and let a cartoonishly corrupt fracking industry crony wage war against the Environmental Protection Agency from inside its ranks.
But every once in a while, Trump’s “populist” instinct gets the better of him — and he momentarily betrays the fact that the GOP’s favorite industries and the American public have disparate interests. Such was the case Friday morning, when the president scolded the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for inflating oil prices:
For once, Trump’s tweeted diatribe is more or less accurate. OPEC and Russia have been mounting a coordinated effort to cut back production, so as to inflate oil prices. For three years, a global glut of crude has weighed on the finances of oil-exporting countries. And it has also done significant harm to America’s fracking industry — since extracting fossil fuels through hydraulic fracturing has higher production costs than conventional oil drilling, low energy prices can render many fracking enterprises unprofitable.
Thanks to the recent efforts of the Russians, Saudis, and other major oil exporters, however, the price of oil has rebounded — and gasoline prices in the U.S. are at their highest level in three years.
As Russia’s energy minister was quick to point out, this development is good news for American energy companies, telling Bloomberg News, “The deal helped to restore the industry of Texas.” But for a fleeting moment, Trump let his allegiance to the “forgotten man and woman” override his party’s fealty to energy interests. And the price of oil took a (temporary) hit.
In an ideal world, the president would put the American people above Big Oil by doing everything in his (or her) power to save the former from the ecological catastrophe the latter is hell-bent on bringing about. But in this decidedly un-ideal world, it looks like we’ll have to settle for a tweet declaring the price of gas to be too damn high.