When President Trump addresses a joint session of congress Tuesday night, he will undoubtedly say that the State of the Union is strong, and he’s right. The economy is growing, the stock market is booming, and unemployment is low.
The boom over the last several years in American energy production has turned the country into a significant exporter of oil and natural gas, which has bolstered the economy.
President Trump gets that right in an excerpt of his State of the Union released early Tuesday evening ahead of the speech. But the trend was already well underway before he took office.
Trump’s claim: “We have ENDED the war on American Energy – and we have ENDED the War on CLEAN COAL. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.”
It’s true that the U.S. has become a significant exporter of energy. But it would not be accurate to say that Trump was responsible for it.
The U.S. Energy Information Information reported in December that exports of U.S. crude oil and petroleum products more than doubled from 2010 to 2016.
The U.S. was also expected to become a net exporter of natural gas in 2017, according to the EIA, meaning the country imports more than it exports.
No independent analysts give Trump credit for these changes. The trends are largely driven by market forces, led by the massive boom in shale oil and gas production that has occurred in areas such as Appalachia, Texas and Wyoming.
You can credit the spread of cheap fracking technology that “makes it cheaper to extract energy,” University of Michigan economist Erik Gordon said in an email.
Former President Barack Obama aided the boom by lifting restrictions on oil exports that had been in place for several decades.
“It’s true that current U.S. oil exports are at a record level but the lifting of exports actually came under Obama,” GasBuddy.com petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan said.
The U.S. remains a net importer of crude oil but is a net exporter of gasoline and diesel, Oil Price Information Service analyst Tom Kloza said.
Trump’s claim of ending “the war on American energy” and “the war on clean coal” is likely a reference to his plan to repeal Obama’s implementation of carbon emissions restrictions on coal-fired electricity plants.
Supporters of Trump’s move say that Obama’s restrictions were onerous for coal companies, accelerating the sector’s decline. Proponents of Obama’s restrictions say they were necessary to combat climate change.
Whether Trump “ended the war” on energy depends mostly on whether you believe there was a war going on at all.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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