Liberals say President Donald Trump is colluding with Russia and coddling Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin. And while rhetorically it may sometimes feel that the president is too friendly to the Russian autocrat, Trump is quietly delivering an economic nuclear bomb to the Russian economy that will hurt Russia far more than any sanction bill or nasty Twitter takedown.
His incendiary device: U.S. energy sector deregulation — a move with the potential to send devastating shockwaves through the Russian economy. With Russia’s economy universally regarded as over reliant on high energy prices, a drop in energy prices would defuse Russian military adventurism, and potentially destabilize the de-facto Russian dictator, Putin, himself.
A staggering 70 percent of Russian exports are comprised of oil and gas. Over half of Russia’s federal budget revenue comes from the country’s oil-and-gas sector — which in turn finances Putin’s ongoing military aggressions, including in Syria and Ukraine.
Whatever the impact of various U.S. government imposed sanctions and diplomatic wrist-slapping against Russia — ranging from trade measures to expulsions of embassy personnel to limiting the asset-mobility of the fortunes of some of Putin’s cronies — they are dwarfed by the Damoclean sword Trump holds over Putin’s head in the form of American energy policy.
By cutting back Obama-era restraints on American energy exploration, production and consumption, Trump has already begun to unleash the greatest threat to Putin’s military-oil-industrial-complex. In addition to the speedy approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, the administration has largely beaten back Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” which was a backdoor path for government to regulate all energy.
All that stated, oil prices have risen in recent years, though they would be likely be disastrously higher were it not for the American shale revolution — made possible by private mineral ownership, unique to the United States of America, and our largely free energy markets. Reducing additional regulatory constraints on energy could further boost domestic production, contributing to lowering oil and gas prices and diminishing Putin’s influence. In addition to the weakening Putin financially, by exporting more oil and natural gas we are essentially exporting freedom from dependency, particularly to Europe and other regions historically dependent on Putin and other countries who don’t share our respect for law and democratic values.
But more important than where the oil markets stand at any particular sliver in time, when it comes to “putting America first” — and putting Russian President Vladimir Putin on notice — energy deregulation should remain a foremost administration priority.
To fully wield this powerful weapon the president should immediately suspend the biased funding of climate studies that have perpetuated climate change fear mongering — the left’s rear-guard action to block the development of oil and natural gas energy resources. Another priority should be administrative and legislative initiatives to repair and improve the Endangered Species Act — which continues to be exploited by the anti-development left to obstruct and even halt development. There is room to improve the Endangered Species Act, both in terms of helping truly endangered species while also allowing development to the benefit of the human condition.
There is a real opportunity to provide a more rational process for adding — or removing — species from environmental protection, so that it’s not vulnerable to manipulation from either overzealous anti-industry environmentalists on one hand, or crony-capitalists on the other.
Russia may be hurting U.S. interests on the international stage and even domestically, but if you really want to punish Putin, unleashing America’s energy industry is a far more potent weapon than much of what has been proposed. The good news is President Trump seems to get this — even if most in the media don’t.
Jennifer Grossman is the CEO of Atlas Society and a former speeches writer for President George H.W. Bush.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.