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Trump Steps Into North Dakota Oil/Gas Patch to Back Keystone XL, Fracking, Coal

Newly crowned by North Dakota delegates as the Republican Party's presidential candidate on Thursday, Donald Trump used the conclusion of the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference (WBPC) in Bismarck as a forum to outline his views on U.S. energy policy.

Trump introduced a new slogan -- "America First" -- to represent a drive for total energy independence and a revived domestic energy sector that he promises will help cut trillions of dollars from the nation's budget deficit.

While spending most of his time blasting President Obama and his presumed political opponent, Hillary Clinton, during a pre-speech press briefing and 45-minute speech, Trump lauded Continental Resources Corp. CEO Harold Hamm as "one of the great oilmen of the world" to the throng of news media. He went on to further praise his fellow billionaire's energy exploits after Hamm introduced the Republican standard bearer to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 7,000 people who jammed into the Bismarck Events Center when the WBPC meeting had just concluded.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) also helped introduce Trump and was lauded by the presidential candidate. Trump has talked little about energy so far in the campaign and is reportedly using Cramer as a leading policy adviser in this area.

Most of the substance in Trump's energy-related remarks was drawing a sharp contrast with what he labeled as failed policies by the Obama administration, and the assertion that Clinton as president would be even worse for the energy sector.

In his introduction, Hamm even tongue-and-cheek credited Trump's visit and anticipated energy address in North Dakota as responsible for oil prices hitting $50/bbl. And the presidential candidate in his remarks said he would take credit for it, alluding to his administration, assuming he wins, driving the price much higher and using those higher prices to bolster the economy.

Trump emphasized that he wants the federal government "to get out of the way" of the energy industry, including coal, which he accused both Obama and Clinton as trying to shut down. "Energy independence is my policy, and I would say that is what we all want," Trump told a reporter asking him to summarize what he was going to tell the audience in Bismarck. "Through modern technology, we found out that we [the United States] are sitting on energy like no one would believe."

In response to another question, Trump strongly endorsed hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and again added that Bernie Sanders and Clinton are opposed to it.

Among one of the first things he plans to do in his "first 100 days" agenda in the White House is to invite TransCanada Corp. to re-apply for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which he plans to approve, but on renegotiated terms that will give the U.S. treasury a lot more money for the green light.

In response to a trade reporter's question on another Canadian pipeline proposal, Trump said he was unaware of the project but that generally he favored more pipelines as the safest and best way to transport energy. "A lot of times pipelines are so much better because of the problems with trains, but we're going to look at everything [including renewables]," said Trump, adding that his energy strategy is "all-of-the-above" without acknowledging that the Obama administration has claimed to have the same strategy.

Speaking at a press conference prior to his keynote speech, Trump went after his potential opponents with regards to oil and gas shale unconventional development. "Hillary is going to ban fracking, Bernie is going to ban fracking...you do that you are going to be back in the Middle East begging for oil again," Trump said. "That's not going to happen, not with me. We are going to open it up; we are going to be energy independent; we are going to have all sorts of energy. We are going to have everything you can think of, including solar."

However, Trump told reporters that solar and wind would have to be looked at closely because they are expensive. In addition to the expense, Trump said windmills in California are "killing hundreds and hundreds of eagles. Plus it is very, very expensive and doesn't work without a subsidy."

On the topic of crude exports, Trump said he would "open it up so [producers] can sell it, but then it will be up to people like Harold [Hamm]. If he wants to sell to other places, I'm not going to help him. No one can sell like him. I would open it up, get rid of the regulations, and people like Harold Hamm and people I know who are really competent," will sell it. "We will make so much money that we will start to pay down our $19 trillion in debt."

Trump acknowledged that the United States has made strides toward energy independence in recent years, but he said that has been despite President Obama, not because of any positive actions by his administration. Trump said Obama is now trying to impose a "totalitarian tax" of $10/bbl on U.S. oil production. He then blamed the current low rig count in the United States on the president.

Trump called the oil price slump a totally "self-inflicted" problem that he proposes will be solved by his policy of "complete American energy independence."

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