Sunday, February 12, 2017

Trump is turning America into a Global Energy Champion - Christopher Mendoza

by Christopher Mendoza

Trump’s “America First” energy plan will actually help Washington build stronger bridges with other countries.

After a painful, Obama-induced decline, worsened by a sustained slump in oil prices, the U.S. oil and gas industry is finally staging a comeback. While the liberal elite wastes no opportunity to decry Trump’s “America First” energy plan, a more sober look will actually show that not only is the policy a godsend for the industry, but it will actually help Washington build stronger bridges with other countries.

After a lengthy slump, last December’s OPEC agreement to lower production has set the stage for America’s fossil fuel resurgence. Saudi Arabia’s commitment to cut production by 1.2 million barrels a day, with additional cuts by other OPEC members and non-members, led Goldman Sachs to predict oil prices will rise to around $60 per barrel in the first half of 2017. U.S. shale production has declined by about 1 million barrels a day since hitting a peak in April of 2015, but output has stabilized in recent months -- during a period when oil prices were still at $50 a barrel. A price hike like the one predicted by Goldman Sachs promises to accelerate that recovery -- and it was already confirmed by a recent Drilling Productivity Report released by the Energy Information Administration, which showed that crude oil output will continue to rise in the following months.

These developments promise a golden future for the American fossil fuel industry. As oil prices increase again, it has become clear that OPEC has had to relinquish its once tight grip on the global energy market. In fact, the OPEC agreement is nothing short of a surrender to American shale, which has elevated the U.S. into the position of the world’s pre-eminent swing producer. This means that American shale now has the power to dictate global oil price fluctuations in the future, in line with predictions made last year by Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, now Secretary of State.

While Obama’s anti-oil policies hastened the energy industry’s decline, Trump’s pro-oil stance is already attracting new investments into U.S. oil production. For example, Saudi Arabia seeks to invest more heavily in the U.S. oil sector in order to better align the U.S. and Saudi economies and build a stronger relationship with Washington. Since the kingdom rolled out its Vision 2030, an economic diversification plan designed to reduce its reliance on oil, the sheiks have embarked on a worldwide campaign to win the hearts and minds of investors to help them achieve their objectives. To that end, the Saudis have requested proposals from banks including Morgan Stanley and HSBC on the initial public offering of state-owned Aramco, the world’s largest oil firm, while looking towards markets in New York, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. They found a willing audience in the U.K., where the post-Brexit government of Theresa May is fast at work sealing a free trade agreement with Riyadh and its Gulf neighbors. While Saudi Arabia will undoubtedly profit from the influx of capital, this long-term Saudi move away from an oil-based economy tellingly points towards the cementation of American oil’s primacy on the global energy market.

By following through on his campaign trail promises to “lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks” and boost fossil fuels, Trump’s revival of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines has swiftly brought to an end obstacles from the past designed to prevent oil from reaching its full potential. The decision to relaunch the pipeline projects was enthusiastically welcomed in Canada, where Obama’s energy policies, and particularly his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, had badly damaged bilateral relations. Not surprisingly, Canadian PM Trudeau has come out in strong support of Trump’s decision, which he says will provide jobs and a much-needed economic boost for Canadians.

But that’s only half the picture. “America First” will deliver a stunning blow to the mandarins in China, who will finally be shut out of the U.S. Over the last 15 years, Chinese companies were allowed to invest $7.4 billion in Texas, most of which went towards the oil and gas industry. One Chinese investment firm spent $1.3 billion on Texan oil fields in 2015 alone. Thankfully, the Chinese push to penetrate the American oil industry and compromise our energy security will no longer be that easy, as Trump has taken a hard line stance against China’s encroachment. Add to this the possibility of slapping the Chinese with a 45% import tariff and speaking out on Beijing’s currency manipulations, and China’s U.S. plans will be stifled before more damage is done. With the Saudis reaching out to the U.S., Washington has very little to lose from a potential shift in Chinese investment.

Donald Trump is shaking up the old guard dominating the global oil market, and as energy prices recover and the administration rolls out its fossil fuel friendly packages, the momentum will be unstoppable. For the U.S., and much of the world, this will be a blessing. 

Christopher Mendoza


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