Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

Big Oil’s Big Wins in Washington Put King Coal’s Gains to Shame

The American Petroleum Institute has for years pushed a long policy wish list in Washington -- sometimes full of so many priorities that the trade group’s president struggled to identify all of the group’s ambitions.

Not anymore.

After a string of recent successes -- beginning even before President Donald Trump moved into the White House -- API is honing in on just two major policy asks for Congress and the federal government: modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement and doing away with a program mandating biofuel use.

The industry has notched major wins over the past two years. Congress ended the crude export ban and allowed drilling rigs into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Trump administration moved to relax Obama-era mandates on methane leaking from oil wells.

The oil industry’s rising fortunes -- at least in the nation’s capital -- stand in stark contrast to those of coal miners, who have won Trump’s rhetorical backing but have less in terms of policy victories to show for it. On Monday, Trump-appointed regulators at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission shot down a White House plan to subsidize coal and nuclear plants in the name of keeping power grids dependable.

FERC’s decision was a significant blow that “overshadows everything” good that’s happened for coal in the past year, U.S. coal mogul Bob Murray told Bloomberg in an interview Tuesday.

And Trump actually campaigned for president on a promise to revive coal mining; he dismissed the oil industry as a special interest.

But Trump’s Interior Department just outlined an unprecedented plan to sell oil-drilling rights on more than 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf, responding to years of industry pleas for more territory to explore.

And the president just signed a massive tax cut that API head Jack Gerard said would drive continued industry investment in the U.S.

But it’s not time for a victory lap, Gerard said.

"There’s always work to be done," Gerard said. "We’ve still got a list of issues we’ve got to deal with."

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