A Free-Market Energy Blog

Trump on Energy, Environment, and Regulation (Part I)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- January 12, 2021

” … although Trump was not a libertarian, was his philosophy in energy, environment, and regulation reasonably free market? Were the President’s motivations laudatory? Consumer-, entrepreneur-, and taxpayer-driven? I believe they were, outside of foreign trade policy with certain countries.”

I recently had this exchange with a ideological and personal friend, Richard Ebeling, BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, about the civil war within the libertarian movement in regard to the Donald Trump presidency. Always there, the divide boiled over last week with Trump’s last stand. I was part of it.

After reviewing our exchange, I revisited many Trump-related posts here at MasterResource regarding energy, climate, and the environment. (Wednesday’s post will list approximately 30.) The question is: although Trump was not a libertarian, was his philosophy in this area reasonably free market, outside of foreign trade policy with certain countries? Were the President’s motivations laudatory? Consumer-, entrepreneur-, and taxpayer-driven? I believe they were.

The Exchange

Ebeling: Many of my weekly articles over the last four years have been on Trump’s rude, crude, boorish behavior and his total disregard or understanding of the meaning of liberty and limited government in the American tradition. But it does not change the fact that taxes were lowered, some regulations were removed and unemployment for many groups in the labor force reached historic lows before the Coronavirus and the government lockdowns and shutdowns by federal and especially state-level policies.

He did not initiate these tax and regulatory policies for classical liberal-based reasons, but they nonetheless had their salutary effects on the economy. But, at the same time, Trump has brought almost all of this down on himself with his words and deeds.

Bradley: I agree. But I am not in the business of personality. Focused very much on energy/environmental policy (have to defer to Wayne Crews on regulation more generally and experts in all the other areas to make their own assessments, including foreign policies). Trump has provided some ‘worldview’ to go along with withdrawing from the Paris climate accord and for his pro-energy policies, all chronicled at MasterResource.

Now, in terms of opportunity cost and sunk cost, I have supported Trump ‘more’ in comparison to the Left. The downside of TDS among classical liberals is that the good side of Trump’s polices were left twisting in the wind. Some more ‘policy, not personality’ would and still is good as a methodology for classical liberalism. Sweet Joe Biden and bad policy lie just ahead in Trump’s good areas…

Ebeling: Yes, ideas should be separated from personalities. But . . . In reality ideas and policies are expressed, conveyed, and implemented by people who articulate them.Thus, it is a common trait to connect what is said with the person saying or doing it. Think of Reagan’s persona compared to Trump, for instance. So, in many people’s eyes he has ended up discrediting reasonable policies because of his conduct and manner.

Bradley: I agree. But happy get-along Reagan, for example, did not do with energy what Trump did. Reagan said he was going to abolish DOE and did not. Trump exited the Paris climate accord and ‘mainstreamed’ ‘energy dominance’ in a way that no Republican would have done (and had done). And for the right reasons.

Trump on Regulation

Trump did have a worldview behind his regulatory reform. Maybe not as much as libertarians want, but a pretty good one, particularly in terms of the political opportunity cost now known as Biden/Harris.

And his record was pretty good for the modern era, maybe very good. (CEI expert Wayne Crews reports, you decide.)

Last month at MasterResource, I summarized the White House philosophy on regulation, Trump’s Last Regulatory White Paper (Fall 2020 Regulatory Plan). The White House stated in its introduction:

Regulatory reform marks one of the central and abiding successes of President Trump’s Administration. From the beginning, the President has focused on regulatory reform as a principal means both to promote economic growth and to secure the liberty of Americans…. Many of the most important deregulatory actions have issued in the past fiscal year, leading to the greatest reduction in regulatory burden in decades. As significant, the President has reformed the way regulation happens in the United States, thereby promoting the rule of law.

Did many libertarians so critical of Trump read or report on this summary? With less than 650 views of Crews’ regulatory update above, I would say not.

I cannot help but believe from my recent Facebook exchanges with leading libertarian academics that too many fell into the Progressive Left trap of changing the narrative from public policy to Trump’s character. (Is the Left really the character party, by the way?) For academic libertarians surrounded by Progressives in the workplace, is ignoring or downplaying Trump’s accomplishments a way to try to get along? To have a dialogue?

These are questions, not answers. A scholarly ‘Libertarians and Trump” book needs to be written. After all, some believe that unlike the Green Party that was starved by the Democrat establishment, the libertarians, not voting or voting for LP candidate Jo Jorgensen, might have swung a very close election to Biden/Harris.

Tomorrow in Part II, approximately 30 important Trump energy/climate speeches and moments will be listed–for the record.


  1. John Garrett  

    Talk is cheap.

    I don’t give a damn what people say.
    It’s what they do that matters.

    Getting the U.S. out of the joke/farce that is the Paris Agreement was wonderful. The “Catastrophic/dangerous, CO2-driven anthropogenic global warming/climate change” CONJECTURE has been accurately labeled as



  2. Richard Greene  

    Getting out of the Paris Accord was mainly symbolic.
    It is a group of virtue signalers who set CO2 emissions targets and miss them.
    There is no penalty or enforcement mechanism.
    Giving money to the “green slush fund” also appears to be voluntary.
    If you don’t waste money on that fund, the Paris Accord is just virtue signalling about how much you “care about the planet”. China and India don’t seem to care, yet their CO2 emissions growth should be the primary target if you believe CO2 emissions are bad news.

    I have a scientific view of CO2 — it is the stuff of most life on our planet. More CO2 in the atmosphere encourages plant growth. More plant growth supports more life on our planet.
    People who want less CO2 in the atmosphere, therefore, are anti-life !

    There were many good reductions of regulations during the Trump Administration.

    Two things that did not happen:
    (1) The EPA still considers CO2 to be a pollutant, and
    (2) President Trump never learned enough about climate science to speak intelligently about the subject to the American people, for even one minute. I mean real climate science — where the future climate is unknown — not the usual, always wrong, wild guess predictions of a coming climate crisis … that we’ve been hearing about for the past 50 years in the mainstream media.

    The amazing “climate crisis” — it’s always “coming”, but never arrives ! Meanwhile, our climate keeps getting better, as it has been doing since the Little Ice Age centuries. We should be celebrating the climate change in progress for hundreds of years, Warmer winter nights in Alaska are NOT an “existential” threat to the planet. They are good news.


  3. rbradley  

    Richard Ebeling in his recent essay, “Trump’s Fall and the Rise of the Tribal Collectivists” (https://www.aier.org/article/trumps-fall-and-the-rise-of-the-tribal-collectivists/) stated:

    There are friends of freedom who honestly and sincerely take umbrage at any such criticisms of Donald Trump. They point to the fact that he withdrew the United States from the Paris Accords concerning the environment; that he opened America to a fuller and more market-based energy policy that led to a boom of cleaner-air natural gas and which did not crucify fossil fuels on a cross of dangerous global warming central planning; he lowered corporate and individual taxes and introduced deregulation of many government restrictions on business activity.

    That’s me …..


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