Burgum visits Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, talks slumping electric vehicle sales

Photo by: WDAY Radio File (Canva)
Photo by: WDAY Radio File (Canva)

(Bismarck, ND) -- North Dakota Governor, and Vice-Presidential hopeful, Doug Burgum pulled no punches at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, blasting the Biden Administration’s energy policy, and sounding the alarm on U.S. electric vehicle demand.

Burgum made the comments on Scott Hennen’s “What’s On Your Mind” program on KTGO Radio on May 16th. 

He began his comments by stating that the push to eliminate fossil fuels is misguided with the growing potential of artificial intelligence.

“With what’s happening with AI in our country, there is a huge demand for baseload energy and with (Rainbow Energy buying Coal Creek Station in Underwood) with 1,200 megawatts energy, they are going to look very smart because other companies are dropping their baseload because of pressure from shareholders with this ESG (Environmental and Social Governance) movement at a time when we’re going to have all this demand for electricity.  And states that aren’t preserving their baseload energy are going to be looking at “brownouts” and “blackouts.”  I call them the “Biden Brownouts” and the “Biden Blackouts” because the federal government is behind all the regulations that are driving baseload energy out.” 

North Dakota state leaders, like Burgum and Attorney General Drew Wrigley, have been critical of the Biden administration for stalling on natural gas exports and oil and natural gas lease sales on public land.  Burgum says the state is ideally positioned to be a major player in the game of environmentally responsible energy production, but it faces an unfair playing field.

“We can decarbonize baseload and we can decarbonize sustainable aviation fuel.  Denbury Resources has got a “net carbon negative” barrel of energy coming out of North Dakota.  All of that is 15 times more efficient than the federal subsidies for an EV car.  And it’s less than the subsidies that they’ve given solar and wind.  This is the least subsidized industry of any of the energy industries, and with all that headwind, fossil fuels can still be the cheapest, cleanest, and safest …and they can lead to stability all around the world.  We are in 2 proxy wars with Iran and Russia, through our allies, and those wars are being funded by Joe Biden’s energy policies which are shutting down U.S. energy and growing theirs.  Iran’s oil production is up since Biden took office.  North Dakota’s oil production is down.” 

Americans continue to buy electric vehicles, but the pace is slowing.

Kelley Blue Book reports that domestic EV sales dropped in the first quarter of 2024 from the fourth quarter of 2023, with a 15.2% drop in sales.  Experts say car sales are almost always weaker in the first quarter than the fourth, but the size of the drop means the EV market may be calming down to the point of following normal fluctuations.  It’s the first quarter-over-quarter downturn since the second quarter of 2020.

Burgum says the number that stands out to him is EV sales, year over year.  Industry observer JD Power reports that EV sales, in the first quarter, grew only 2.6% year over year, far below the 46.4% year over year growth in the first quarter of 2023 and 81.2% in the first quarter of 2022.

Prices have been slashed accordingly.  With inventory on dealer lots growing toward pre-pandemic levels, the average sales price in March was $44,186, down 3.6% from a year ago and the largest recorded decline for the month of March. 

When asked about how mainstream America can be convinced of the value of fossil fuels, Burgum said, “At the end of the day we win with economics, and the consumer, because people are starting to realize it.  There was a headline recently in the Washington Post that said, ‘EV car sales slow in first quarter.’ Slow?  It went from 50% growth a year ago to 3% this year.  In the tech industry if you were Dell Computer and your sales went from growing 50% to 3%, every headline would be ‘these guys just hit a brick wall and died.”

Not everyone is convinced the brick wall exists.

Fortune.com, citing data from The International Energy Agency, a Paris-based research institute, reports that 2024 EV sales in China, the world’s biggest auto market, are projected to hit 10 million vehicles, roughly 45% of all car sales in that country, with U.S. sales forecast to rise 20% compared to 2023. That would bring EV sales to about 11% of all new car sales.  When it comes to advancements in battery technology, Fortune says that global battery recycling capacity reached 300 gigawatt-hours in 2023, and could exceed 1,500 GWh in 2030, and that the number of global public charging stations rose 40% in 2023 from the prior year.

Burgum says predictions are one thing.  Real data is another.

"Most of the EV car sales in America were sold into 19 counties that were predominantly blue counties in America in the warmer parts of the country. This has never been a national phenomenon, but they've hyped it up to say this is where the whole world is going.”

The statistics may give Burgum fuel for his skepticism.

For the first time since 2021, consumers looking to buy a new car were less likely to consider buying an EV.  Autoworld reports that 24% of car shoppers say they're "very likely" to consider buying an EV, a decrease from 26% last year, while the percentage of those who said they're "overall likely" to consider purchasing an EV declined to 58% from 61% in 2023.  Among car shoppers who said they're "somewhat unlikely" or "very unlikely" to buy an EV, the lack of charging station availability was the leading reason given, with 52% citing that as the primary reason they're less interested in EVs.

The Biden administration says it’s trying to help.  Congress, at the encouragement of the president, appropriated $7.5 billion to build 500,000 chargers by 2030. To date, The Washington Post reports, only eight have been built.

Burgum says all the unused money is actually going to our adversaries. 

“President Biden is borrowing money from places like China, because if you’re spending more than revenue that is coming in, you’re growing the deficit and that means that you’re borrowing money.  So, he’s borrowing money from our adversaries to subsidize 500,000 EV charging stations?  The market in America created 300,000 gas stations in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  The federal government didn’t do that.  Those were all small businesses that paid money and they grew into convenience stores.  The market created these solutions.  These EV charging stations -- you add all that up, and it’s over $930 per ton of subsidy for those.  That’s bigger than wind and bigger than solar.  And if you want a carbon negative automobile, we can give you one for $60 a ton; 15 times more efficient.  So, economics are going to destroy whatever ideology these guys have, in the long run, because economics always wins.”

Burgum continues to be one of the favorites to be Donald Trump’s vice-presidential nominee, according to political insiders.  So, it’s no secret what Burgum feels the best solution is. 

“Part of the outgoing governor’s job is to submit a budget for the incoming legislature, and I said we’re going to be working on two budgets.  If President Trump wins, we’re going to be working with a budget for North Dakota with higher revenue and lower expenses and if Joe Biden wins, we’re going to have much lower revenue because he’s trying to kill liquid fuels which kills agriculture.  The price of land in North Dakota is dependent now on soybean oil and ethanol.  Those fuels drive the price of soybeans and corn, and soybeans and corn drive the profit of a farmer in North Dakota and that drives the price of land.  So, when Biden is trying to kill liquid fuels and kill internal combustion machines, he is accidentally missing his target which is fossil fuels and he’s shooting at US agriculture.  So, with four years of Joe Biden, it’s going to be very harmful to US agriculture.”

Biden’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act set aside $369 billion for green energy subsidies. Burgum says the actual costs will be much higher.

“Four more years of Joe Biden is going to put out of business the US baseload energy business, which is all our coal country in North Dakota and it’s going to deeply harm fossil fuels.  Because the LNG pause, I think illegally by executive order, hurts our allies.  When we export, it goes to Western Europe, places like Japan and South Korea.  Just like not sending arms to Israel, he’s going to negotiate for the terrorists.  That’s what he’s doing.  He’s negotiating for Iran and Russia and Venezuela and China when he puts a pause on exports.  Well, if he gets re-elected there will be a ban on LNG exports.  It’s horrifically bad for our economy which makes it bad for everybody in North Dakota who has a kid in K-12, or if you drive on our roads, or if you get healthcare in North Dakota.  All that’s affected if you kill the U.S. energy industry.  And then conversely, he’s selling it to the American people as somehow all of this will be good for the environment, as if stopping U.S. energy production is good.  But when you stop U.S. energy production, the cleanest, smartest, safest energy production in the world, and you don’t do anything to demand, and that demand gets replaced by Iran, Russia, and Venezuela who don’t even have an EPA, you’re hurting the environment. The whole premise of his policy is actually a falsehood, because it’s worse for the environment, it's worse for American prosperity, and it’s literally causing wars around the world.  That’s the Joe Biden energy policy.”

And about that vice presidential spot?  Burgum continues to do a lot for the president and say very little about his chances.

“President Trump gets up and goes to trial all day, then he makes dozens of phone calls and goes to fundraisers.  The night I was there, on Tuesday, he’s meeting with the Prime Minister of Australia.  They’re coming to New York to meet him in his apartment versus going to the White House, some of these foreign leaders.  They can see where the power is, and they can see where the world is going.

I think there are dozens of highly qualified people and I think President Trump, in July, should pick the person that’s going to help him win, in November, and help him govern the country.  We’ve got a deep bench, and I tell you, any one of the 50 people under consideration would be happy to be debating Kamala Harris, because the one thing she’s accomplished in her time is that she’s actually got lower ratings than Joe Biden.  It’s hard to get lower than him but she’s there, and I think people need to understand that a vote for Joe Biden is a vote for Kamala Harris because he’s not going to make it four years.”