Climate Policy: What It Means for Pompeo and Kudlow to Be Replacing Tillerson and Cohn


If people are policy, the Trump administration’s commitment to the President’s pro-growth energy agenda has become clearer and firmer. Last week, Mr. Trump ousted Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and announced plans to replace him with current Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo. Tillerson, under whose leadership ExxonMobil became an advocate of carbon taxes, led the pro-Paris climate treaty faction within the Trump administration.

In stark contrast, in 2015, then-congressman Pompeo said about the Paris Climate Agreement: “Congress must also do all in our power to fight against this damaging climate change proposal and pursue policies that support American energy, create new jobs, and power our economy.”

Pompeo was also a leading opponent of carbon taxes in the House, sponsoring a resolution aimed at “putting Congress on record in opposition to this awful idea.”

Last Wednesday, Trump picked economist and CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn as the top White House economic advisor. Cohn, who resigned over Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, lobbied Trump to stay in the Paris treaty and favors a carbon tax.

Again in stark contrast, Kudlow praised Trump’s decision to withdraw from Paris, arguing it effectively “ends the war on fossil fuels.” In an op-ed on last year’s tax debate Kudlow, along with co-authors Steve Forbes, Arthur Laffer, and Stephen Moore, admonished GOP leaders to shun a carbon tax, describing it as a “worse” poison pill than a scheme of adjustable border taxes.

Time magazine’s politically-correct take on these personnel changes is that the White House’s “climate change believers are headed out the door.” A more accurate description is that energy realists are replacing people who want to have their cake and eat it.

The Paris Agreement and carbon taxes are part of one and the same agenda—what Kudlow calls the “war on fossil fuels.” The basic idea is to price and squeeze fossil fuels out of the market via such policies as emission taxes, cap-and-trade, carbon dioxide regulations, and renewable energy quota. The “Keep It in the Ground” vanguard of this movement also wants to stop energy companies from mining coal and fracking for gas and oil in the first place.

There is no way to harmonize or hybridize Paris and carbon taxes with Trump’s agenda of securing an era of American energy dominance. Tillerson and Cohn did not understand that. Pompeo and Kudlow do. Both men are articulate and passionate advocates of free-market ideas. For what it’s worth, I am confident they will serve the President and the republic well.