Bill Arnold, Professor in the Practice of Energy Management at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, has years of experience in America’s energy industry. From 1993-2009, he served as Royal Dutch Shell’s Washington Director of International Government Relations and Senior Counsel for the Middle East, Latin America, and North Africa, where he engaged at the highest levels of government in the US and abroad to provide geopolitical insights, develop business strategies, build scenarios, and advance multi-billion dollar projects.
Prior to that, Arnold held a White House appointment as Senior Vice President of the Export Import Bank of the United States (Eximbank) from 1983 to 1988, when he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He served as Eximbank’s liaison officer to the Berne Union, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund and created special export credit packages for Brazil and Mexico during the first Latin American debt crisis.
Because of his experiences as a high-ranking energy executive, working within the White House, and, currently, as an energy professor at a world-renowned university, Arnold possesses a unique, well-rounded perspective concerning the impact American presidents have on the country’s energy industry. Below, you will find his thoughts on what Donald Trump’s election means for America’s energy industry and pipeline projects in particular.
P&GJ: What does Trump’s election mean for America’s energy industry?
Arnold: We will have an entirely new prism across the industry. It will be more based on a free-market approach than directives coming from Washington. For example, the Obama Administration has pursued a “war on coal” and yet president-elect Trump made direct pledges supporting the coal industry in the debates and, subsequently, received their support in the election process. I think a Trump administration is more likely to let market forces dictate the allocation of coal, natural gas and nuclear power generation across America. Another example is the ongoing environmental movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground. I think a Trump administration would be supportive of pipeline development.
P&GJ: Do you expect major pipeline projects facing opposition such as Keystone XL and Dakota Access to be more likely to move forward under the Trump administration?
Arnold: I think the question is whether the opportunity for Keystone XL has been lost or just deferred. Given the high cost of production and low oil prices, Canada may not want to move forward with this multibillion dollar investment. Yet, this is the kind of development that would create many high-paying jobs. The situation with Dakota Access is similar. The Obama administration has been trying to overrule the courts and even propose alternate pipeline routes. In contrast, the Trump administration would allow duly-permitted infrastructure projects to proceed.
P&GJ: How would you advise Trump to get the American public on board with pipeline construction projects?
Arnold: Be clear and consistent in your views, like President Reagan. Also, use the bully-pulpit of the White House to educate the American public about such projects and their benefits. American policy on pipelines is looking to the medium-term needs of communities across the country. Pipelines would connect Americans need for natural gas to the country’s increasing gas resources. The Trump administration will appoint hundreds of people to positions within the Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, EPA and other governmental agencies. These appointees should have a clear and consistent strategy to communicate the benefits pipelines provide to the American public’s day-to-day lives. The administration’s message should be something along the lines of “The pipeline industry is the backbone of the American economy. It provides energy security and economic growth through access to low-cost, clean natural gas.”
P&GJ: Once complete, what do you expect Trump’s legacy concerning oil and gas pipeline infrastructure projects to be?
Arnold: I think the Trump administration would hope it achieves its stated objective “To Make America Great Again” by using existing natural resources found in the U.S., which are abundant and cheap, to reindustralize the country and improve national security. By developing these resources and building new infrastructure to transport them, America will have reaped the benefits of increased energy security and national security. I also think when we look back on major pipeline projects during his term, Dakota Access will be completed, and provided Keystone XL is deemed to be economically viable, it will proceed as well. Hopefully, by the end of his term, pipeline opposition will significantly decline as the American public better understand the benefits they provide.