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Oil and gas industry donations heavily fueling Trump for president

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  • February 10, 2024

Donald Trump is the oil and gas industry’s undisputed top pick for the Republican presidential nomination as energy sector donors shower his candidacy with nearly 10 times the amount of money as they gave his challenger Nikki Haley.

And forget about President Joe Biden. Despite record oil production and profits during his White House tenure, industry donors have given very little — just $635,000 — to his reelection bid compared with the $7.37 million they bestowed on Trump, according to an analysis from OpenSecrets.

Oil and gas is now one of the top industries funding Trump’s 2024 run and a critical source of cash for his White House comeback bid, as other major donors — particularly in finance, private equity and venture capital — have opted instead to back his last remaining GOP rival Haley.

The staunch support from oil and gas producers wasn’t preordained. Last summer and fall, as Trump faced a crowded field of challengers, oil industry donors were sprinkling money on his rivals, including Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others. But as the year progressed and Trump’s lock on the nomination seemed more likely, donors lined up behind the former president.

Continental Resources Inc. co-founder Harold Hamm made several donations to both Haley and DeSantis last spring and summer, after saying he didn’t believe Trump could win the 2024 election. By August, he had changed his mind and cut a check to Trump’s campaign, followed by an additional $200,000 in November to Make America Great Again Inc., the super political action committee supporting the Republican frontrunner.

Trump and his allied political action committees also received contributions from other major industry donors in late 2023, including Geosouthern Energy Corp.’s George Bishop, and Tim Dunn, an oil tycoon who heads Crownquest Operating LLC. Dunn sent a $5 million check to Trump’s super PAC in December.

Other donors to Trump’s reelection effort in the fourth quarter were Kelcy Warren, chairman of Energy Transfer LP; Karen Herbst, a longtime land and minerals manager in Texas; and Kent Hance, a former member of the Texas Railroad Commission, the agency which regulates oil and gas in the state.

Haley has seen some interest from oil and gas donors, including Bryan Sheffield, the founder of Parsley Energy Inc.; his father, shale titan Scott Sheffield; and oil industry veteran Tucker Bridwell. She has raised $807,000 from the energy industry. By contrast, she has shined on Wall Street, where major finance donors, including Citadel’s Ken Griffin, investor Stan Druckenmiller and Elliott Investment Management’s Paul Singer have united behind her candidacy instead of Trump.

Biden-era energy boom

Biden has done more than any other U.S. president to confront climate change and promote renewable energy, making him an unlikely commander-in-chief to preside over a domestic oil and gas boom. Biden’s support for emission-free power — and policies targeting oil and gas pollution — have discouraged donors.

Yet U.S. production and exports of oil and gas have surged under Biden’s watch, with the nation producing a record 13.3 million barrels of crude a day in November — up from some 11 million barrels per day in 2020 before he took office.

Exports of oil and gas have also climbed, with the country shipping nearly twice as much natural gas overseas last year compared with 2020, before Biden took office.

Oil industry leaders say the uptick comes in spite of Biden’s policies, not because of them. They point to measures encouraging electric vehicle sales, fees on methane emissions and a restrictive plan for selling new drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico. Biden’s pause on permitting more liquefied natural gas exports have also cast doubt on proposed ventures along the US Gulf Coast.

All of those initiatives would likely get a rewrite under a Republican president. Trump has pledged to “drill, baby, drill” on his first day in office.

Even so, Trump was an unpredictable oil industry ally during his first term. His administration dialed back Obama-era regulations targeting industry pollution and encouraging zero-emission competitors to fossil fuels — measures cheered on by oil and gas enthusiasts. But Trump also prodded the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to boost output and blocked new offshore oil leasing near southeast US states in a bid to woo voters before the 2020 election.

Trump’s fickle approach to policy has prompted quiet wariness from oil and gas industry donors — one reason some of them steered their dollars to Haley and DeSantis earlier in the primary season. But if the recent flow of money is any indication of whose policies will favor the industry, Trump has the edge.

“Big energy donors may have qualms about Trump’s legal troubles or his bombastic style,” said Canary Drilling Services LLC Chief Executive Officer Dan Eberhart. “But there’s not much daylight between them when it comes to energy policy.”

 

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