Trump Seeks out Loyal Donors in West Texas Oilpatch

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's visit to a U.S. fracking hub on the West Texas plains comes during the state’s fierce coronavirus outbreak and a global oil and gas glut that is putting the squeeze on his loyal donors in the petroleum industry.

President Trump on an earlier event highlighting the Texas energy industry.

Trump is combining some fundraising Wednesday with his first trip to an oil and gas rig and to his first visit as president to the Permian Basin. He'll pull in up to $100,000 a person at a roundtable with supporters.

“The amount of money might be slightly off because the markets are down and they’re suffering a bit,” said Bill Miller, a prominent lobbyist and consultant in Austin. “But it’s the kind of industry that remembers their friends through thick and thin, and Trump has been their friend." 

Texas over the past month has experienced a dramatic spike in newly confirmed coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and fatalities. The state became one of the nation's hot spots as Texas politicians debated masks and other measures. 

Even as Air Force One carried Trump to Texas on Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported U.S. petroleum use plummeted to a nearly 40-year low this spring, owing to the pandemic lockdown and to market oversupply due in part to intensive oil and gas production that Trump encouraged. Oil and gas prices and production have picked up somewhat since, but it's still a tough time in U.S. oilfields. 

Trump’s government has exerted itself for the oil and gas industry at least as hard it has for any other sector. That includes rolling back environmental and public health protections while promoting a technology-driven surge in U.S. oil and gas production — begun under President Barack Obama — as part of what Trump describes as an American march to global energy dominance. 

His administration has moved to open up vast wilderness areas to oil and gas interests over the objections of environmental groups. Trump also has sought to override various regional objections to oil and gas pipelines with executive orders.And next month, the administration is expected to announce its latest effort to block regulation of the industry’s emissions of methane, a potent agent of climate change.

Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are in a closely fought race in what has been a Republican stronghold.

Though privately Trump campaign officials concede the need to spend time and money in Texas, assets they would prefer to spend elsewhere, they remain confident about their ability to retain the state and have expressed hope that Democrats will waste resources trying to obtain a prize that is out of reach.

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