The Trump Files: When Donald Struck Oil on the Upper West Side

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This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on July 18, 2016.

Donald Trump, oil tycoon? That’s what it sounded like in 1985, when Trump announced he had struck oil on a sprawling vacant lot he owned on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

”Isn’t it amazing?” Mr. Trump told the New York Times. “It’s a classic major oil find in Manhattan.”

Not quite. The oil wasn’t from an ancient crude deposit hiding beneath the city. It was actually spilled and leaked leftovers. The property used to be a rail yard. “The bulk of the find is No. 2 diesel oil for locomotives,” the Times pointed out.

New York environmental officials estimated there were perhaps 100,000 gallons of oil on the property. That’s enough for 2,380 barrels—about 0.0003 percent of what the United States now produces in a day. But that didn’t seem to dampen Donald’s enthusiasm. He claimed he was already getting calls from Texan oil barons about his huge find. “We could be pumping here for years,” he insisted.

 

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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