I waited all afternoon for Donald Trump to lay out his energy policy in a speech in North Dakota, in order to try to assess what might be the investing consequences to energy in the event of a Trump presidency. But I was disappointed by the "speech" that some Trump aide had prepared for him; little more than a bunch of well-trodden talking points of climate-change denial and misunderstanding of global energy economics, without any real alternatives proposed.
It was clear that Trump was only marginally aware of what the speech contained -- the written teleprompter remarks were followed by Trump ad-libbing about precisely what he had read. It contained nothing of substance and nothing new, and was in essence another vague diatribe on "what isn't working" for America and a promise to "make everything right."
Here, a few of the highlights:
1. The blame for dropping energy production in the Arctic, Atlantic and elsewhere in the U.S. was blamed not on collapsing markets, but on the Obama administration and regulation and was followed with a promise for an "America first" energy plan.
What is that plan? That American energy would be a "strategic priority" in the Trump administration, with an embargo of energy trade with anyone "who is hostile to our interests." Trump didn't list anyone specifically, nor outline how that trade could be stopped.
2. Revenues from energy production would be used to rebuild infrastructure. Whose revenues? Trump doesn't say whether that means a direct profit tax on energy companies, but what else can it mean?
3. A promise to rescind all Obama executive progress on carbon, including a retreat from commitment to the Paris climate accord, an end of support for U.N. climate programs, removing the latest EPA regulations on power-plant emissions that have dropped total U.S. carbon output 12% in the last year alone and a promise to revitalize the coal industry. How he plans to do all this, or why, was left unclear.
4. A request from TransCanada for a fresh Keystone pipeline proposal with a kickback for the United States attached, a complete end to restrictions for drilling on federal lands and a complete rollback of any federal restrictions on fracking methods of any kind whatsoever on those lands.
Trump claims the removal of all restrictions would unleash a torrent of investment and jobs, but this country's success in fracking and energy production since 2010 was cut short in 2014 not by regulations but by a global market glut, energy price collapse and massive retreat of capital and credit.
In short, the Trump energy proposals today were long on promises of easy answers to complex energy issues facing the United States -- answers that have eluded the last 10 administrations, both Democrat and Republican, for a reason.
The reason is that the U.S. energy picture is part of a larger international picture of markets, economics, politics, trade and environmental concerns that resists easy solutions and requires detailed, far-reaching thought and ideas.
Everything that today's speech did not contain.
If, however, you're looking for a stock to buy, perhaps you could try a flier on coal company Peabody Energy (BTU). Maybe the Trump administration will secure their return from bankruptcy with a new U.S. bailout fund, supporting the coal miners he claimed to love today.