Trump loves VP contender’s energy cred

By Robin Bravender | 05/14/2024 01:33 PM EDT

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum “knows more about energy than anybody I know,” the former president told a crowd of supporters. 

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks before Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump arrives during a campaign rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, on Saturday. Matt Rourke/AP

A North Dakota governor who’s friendly with the oil and gas industry and wants his state to become carbon neutral could be on the ballot alongside former President Donald Trump in November.

Trump fueled speculation that he might select Republican Gov. Doug Burgum as his running mate over the weekend when the former president and North Dakota governor lavished praise on each other during a rally in New Jersey. Burgum appeared behind Trump on Tuesday ahead of the former president’s ongoing hush money trial in New York and later told reporters it is a “sham trial,” “scam trial” and “election interference.”

Trump appears to like Burgum, in large part due to his energy record.


Burgum “probably knows more about energy than anybody I know,” Trump said at the Saturday rally. “So get ready for something, OK? Just get ready.”

Burgum, who challenged Trump for the GOP presidential nomination but endorsed the former president in January, has reportedly emerged as one of the top contenders for Trump’s vice presidential candidate.

Other rumored possibilities in the veepstakes include Ohio Republican Sen. J.D. Vance, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). Trump declared on Saturday that Nikki Haley — his former ambassador to the United Nations and primary rival — is not a contender.

The North Dakota governor isn’t well known nationally or in Washington energy policy circles, although he scored the endorsements of his home-state Republican senators Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven when he announced his presidential bid last summer. Among Burgum’s campaign donors was billionaire energy executive Jeffery Hildebrand, the billionaire founder of the Texas-based oil and gas company Hilcorp.

Burgum’s primary run gave him a platform to tout his energy record on a national stage.

The wealthy former software executive — first elected as the fossil fuel-producing state’s governor in 2016 — touts the advantages of domestic oil and gas production and says he believes in “innovation over regulation.”

Trashing Biden’s climate agenda

Like Trump, Burgum bashes the Biden administration’s energy policies.

During a GOP primary debate last year, Burgum quipped that the climate law Democrats call the Inflation Reduction Act should be called the “Inflation Creation Act.”

That “Green New Deal spending” is “something that is just subsidizing China,” Burgum said last August. “If we’re going to stop buying oil from the Middle East and start buying batteries from China, we’re just trading OPEC for Sinopec,” he said, referring to the Chinese oil and gas enterprise.

Burgum told energy industry donors at a recent Florida fundraiser that Trump would halt President Joe Biden’s “attack” on fossil fuels, The Washington Post reported.

The former president has been courting oil and gas donors and asked executives last month to donate $1 billion to his White House campaign as industry executives are preparing policy requests with an eye toward a second Trump term, as The Post and POLITICO previously reported.

“Burgum’s record as governor fighting environmental protections and incentivizing more oil and gas production indicate he would be more than happy to take the oil industry’s orders as Trump’s vice president,” said Pete Maysmith, senior vice president of campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters.

Carbon-cutting push

Burgum does appear to have a green streak.

The North Dakota governor in 2021 announced plans to make his state carbon neutral by 2030.

“We can reach carbon neutrality in the state of North Dakota by 2030 without a single mandate, without any additional regulation,” he said that year. “We can get there just through the innovation and the different geology that we have.”

Burgum is “thoroughly aligned with the state of California,” said Mike McKenna, a GOP lobbyist and former Trump White House official. “Whether that’s enough to hurt him, I have no idea, but it doesn’t seem like a good thing if you’re trying to wind up in Trump World.”

California has a goal of hitting carbon neutrality by 2045.

Burgum said in a 2021 interview with the magazine Future Farmer that “no one cares more about our environment” than North Dakotans. “We also know that, while carbon is a key building block of life, we are living in an increasingly carbon-constrained world,” he said.

A Burgum spokesperson declined to comment for this story. A Trump campaign spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Soon after his carbon neutrality announcement, Burgum invited Biden Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to visit his state, saying at the time that he wanted “solutions that will allow for a continued all-of-the-above energy approach that includes coal, oil and gas,” according to his office.

“While he sometimes sounds different from some other MAGA Republicans on climate change, the policies he supported are all about helping Big Oil drill more so they can make more money at the expense of clean energy jobs, lower costs and healthier communities,” said Maysmith of the League of Conservation Voters.

Energy secretary?

If he doesn’t get the nod for vice president, it’s possible that Burgum — whose term as governor ends in December — could land in a Trump Cabinet.

“I’m assuming he’d like to be the secretary of Energy,” McKenna said.

Asked during his primary campaign about a potential Cabinet gig, Burgum said, “I’ve always been the guy that was the CEO or the governor,” The Washington Times reported last August.

“People have said ‘you’d make a great [Department of Agriculture] secretary, you know incredible amounts about ag,’ or ‘you’d be great for the Department of Interior because everything you know about [Bureau of Land Management] and tribal lands,’” Burgum said. “Those seem like the qualifications for the top job.”

Trump’s first nominee to lead the Energy Department, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, had famously called for abolishing that department prior to leading it. Perry later said he regretted calling for the department to be eliminated.

Reporter Timothy Cama contributed.