In the last two years, North Dakota has lost almost half its jobs in the oil and coal industries.
The losses aren't the fault of pesky environmentalists worried about groundwater contamination and global warming. They're the result of collapsing world energy prices.
The story of the North Dakota oil and gas industry captures the absurdity of President-elect Trump's plans to remove environmental restrictions on fossil-fuel production.
Apparently, he wants us to believe a boom in production would lead to massive job growth and plunging energy prices and no negative consequences. But the story of an energy boom just around the corner is an illusion.
As in North Dakota, it's not environmental restrictions that are holding back the U.S. fossil-fuel industry. It's the market. Oil is readily available on world markets for $45 a barrel, less than half its price of three years ago.
At this price, it is not profitable to drill for more oil or gas in most of the areas Trump wants to open up to the fossil-fuel industry. And removing such restrictions would have an unnecessary, negative impact on some of America's most scenic sites.
The industry will always want to drill where it's cheapest. This means that if Trump allows drilling in picturesque, historic areas that are now protected, and such operations prove slightly cheaper than already blighted sites in Texas or North Dakota, then Exxon-Mobil, Shell, and the rest will shift their operations to the lowest-cost area.
If we follow Trump and put a cheap price on preserving nature, then we can be assured there will be less nature to preserve. That will in no way make America great again.
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