Fossil fuels? Plastic? Trump says more is better

US President Donald Trump speaks at the Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex in Monaca, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. -AFP

MONACA, PENNSYLVANIA - President Donald Trump has seen the future and it is oil. And plastic.

Where most environmental scientists and most US allies fear that overuse of fossil fuels is driving the planet into crisis, the US president spies only opportunity.

In a speech on Tuesday to hundreds of workers building a new Shell petrochemical factory near Pittsburgh, Trump did not bother paying even lip service to environmental concerns. He just wanted to make clear that America is winning.

"We're the number one energy producer and I'm so proud of that," he said.

Already, the United States has won "independence" from the guardians of the oil spigots, Trump said.

Next up? "Dominance."

Trump said that his priority on entering office had been to halt "the war on energy."

Ending "the far left's energy nightmare" is at the core of his presidency, he said.

The crowd, comprised mostly of men in high-visibility safety vests and work boots, cheered.

The Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex will make manufacturing-grade plastic out of liquid natural gas extracted through fracking from the Marcellus Shale deposit.

The facility, a huge web of pipes and half-constructed buildings, is a symbol of Trump's aggressive pro-fossil fuel agenda -- and a powerful statement to his working-class voters that he meant business when he promised to restore the US manufacturing base.

Pennsylvania is a particularly important target: the state will be one of the vital pieces in the 2020 presidential election puzzle and Trump is struggling.

But plastic?

The material, once celebrated as a near-miraculous byproduct of hydrocarbons, is increasingly seen as a scourge, clogging up rivers, circulating forever in the seas, invading the food chain, and showing up everywhere from the deepest ocean to the seemingly pristine Arctic.

All that, Trump says, is someone else's fault.

"It's not our plastic. It's plastics that's floating over in the ocean," Trump told reporters on the way to the Shell plant.

"Plastics are fine, but you have to know what to do with them. But other countries are not taking care of their plastic use and they haven't for a long time." -AFP