The Weekly Brief: US Global Impact

February 27, 2017 edition— US oil production up; Pruitt confirmed; and the US trade deficit may get a makeover.





Last Week in a Minute or Less




Renewables & Electricity. Pruitt will withdraw the Clean Power Plan and questioned the EPA’s right to regulate carbon.


Natural Gas & Liquid Fuels. Oil prices catch up with strong crude stocks and US biodiesel imports dropped.


Oil & Gas Upstream. More US drilling leads to more production; GOP senators are looking into hydraulic fracturing.


Money & Power. Pruitt was confirmed despite unsettling emails; the coal industry and the CPAC back Trump; and Tillerson promised Mexico no mass deportations.


Déjà vu all over again. Last week’s readers were particularly interested in US energy trade with Mexico (English); a GOP bill cutting the EPA’s budget (English); and the global oil market balance expected in 2017-18 (English).



Keeping Track of Trump


Pruitt was confirmed despite oil industry emails. The day before Trump’s EPA pick’s confirmation, a judge in Oklahoma ordered emails Pruitt exchanged with oil and gas companies to be published (English) (German) (English). Pruitt was confirmed 52 to 46 in spite of Democrats’ request to delay the vote until the emails were released (English).


Trump vs. The Press, second round. The White House chose a small group of Conservative press representatives to attend a brief, barring CNN, Politico, The Guardian, and The New York Times, among others (English) (Spanish). President Donald Trump announced that he will not attend the White House Correspondents Dinner (English).


CPAC received Trump with fanfare. US Vice President Mike Pence and Steve Bannon urged the annual Conservative Political Action Conference attendees to set aside differences and unite behind President Donald Trump (English). When Donald Trump first spoke at the CPAC, he was jeered for attacking one of their heroes (English).


Trump and Sweden fight over immigration facts. President Donald Trump defended his travel ban by pointing to a security incident related to immigration in Sweden (English) (French). The Scandinavian country was confused over his remarks and demanded an explanation from the White House, which clarify Trump referred to “rising crime” (English).


Clinton takes a swing at Trump’s golf game. Hillary Clinton shared a graph on Twitter with the 744 hours of Donald Trump’s first month in office (English). The graph compared the amount of time Trump has spent playing golf, 25 hours, with the 6 hours spent receiving intelligence briefings.



Energy Policy


Pruitt will kill the Clean Power Plan and questioned the EPA’s right to regulate carbon. In his first interview as EPA head, Pruitt called for the immediate withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule (English). Pruitt considered it “a fair question” to doubt EPA’s “tools” restricting greenhouse emissions (English).


The coal industry is happy about Trump, but plants keep closing. Coal industry representatives, such as Robert Murray, consider Trump’s administration as a “good” thing and expect the overturn of the Stream Protection Rule (English). However, utilities still plan to close 40 coal units in four years in Indiana and Arizona (English).


US crude oil production is up followed the rise in drilling. US crude oil production increased in November, for the second consecutive month and the first two-month increase since 2015 (English). US crude oil production averaged 8.9 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2016, while production increased by 105,000 b/d in November.


GOP senators look to restrict federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing. Two separate bills were introduced to curb federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing in onshore oil and gas activities (English). The bill aims to prioritize state regulations over regulations from the federal government.



Boundary Issues


US biodiesel production and imports sank. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US biodiesel production and imports dropped by 218 million gallons in January, a 63.4% fall compared with December (English). In January, 125.8 million gallons were produced and imported, from 343.9 million gallons in December.


The Trump Administration contemplates changing trade deficit calculations. President Donald Trump’s administration ponders changing how US trade deficits are calculated. The proposal considers excluding “re-exports”- goods imported into the US and transferred out of the country – from the US exports’ calculation (English).


Canada is excited over Trump’s NAFTA “tweak” and Mexico fears its demise. Canada’s Trade Minister interpreted President Donald Trump’s comment on “tweaking” NAFTA as an acknowledgement of the relationship’s strength (English). Meanwhile, Mexico is preparing itself for NAFTA’s possible end by looking to Asia as an alternative (English).


The WTO faced up to Trump’s trade complains. The director of the World Trade Organization assured that the organization can handle President Donald Trump’s worries on “unfair trade” (English) (French). The statement seeks to calm concerns on what is seen as a new era of protectionism in the US.



International Affairs


Tillerson survived Mexico’s visit without a scratch. After Trump’s orders to round up and deport immigrants, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged before Mexico’s leaders “no mass deportations” (English) (Spanish) (French) (English). Representatives discussed cooperation on migration, security, and trade, looking towards Central American countries to join them in the conversation (Spanish).


Trump wants a “top of the pack” nuclear arsenal. President Donald Trump wants to secure a “top of the pack” nuclear arsenal, after a decline in US weapons capacity (English) (French) (Spanish) (Portuguese). In the same Reuters interview, Trump mentioned North Korea’s increasingly bellicose actions and pressured NATO allies to pay their part.


McMaster is no friend of Moscow. Russian newspapers pointed out that McMaster’s view of Russia is diametrically opposed to Flynn’s stance (English). US media have also noticed McMaster’s views differ from the White House stance on Russia, counterterrorism, and the need to strengthen the military (English).


The White House sent conflicting messages to the EU. While Mike Pence reassured the European Union with an “enduring” commitment, Steve Bannon confessed to the German ambassador to Washington his view of the EU as “a flawed construct”, and his preference for bilateral relations (English).



Macro Trends


Fed officials back a faster pace of interest rate increases. Participants at the Fed’s most recent meeting supported a raise in interest rates “fairly soon” if the economy keeps growing (English). The minutes do not directly suggest a rate increase by mid-March, however, as certain officials remained cautious on the US economic outlook.


Oil prices catch up with strong crude stocks… Oil prices rose to 57.26 dollars per barrel, but evened out after US data proved a seventh weekly increase in crude stocks (English). Prices gained 2% after the inventory information was released and disappeared in the next 30 minutes.


…while the dollar dropped against major currencies. The US dollar fell 0.6 percent against the yen and the euro rose 0.4% against the dollar. Concerns over the standstill on US tax reform and French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s anti-EU campaign helped the yen (English).


Firms with offshore production will advise Trump on job creation. President Donald Trump will meet business leaders of companies, including Caterpillar, Dana, General Electric, 3M, and United Technologies Corp, with offshore production in Mexico, China, and India (English). The aim of the meeting will be to increase US factory employment.



Lateral Thinking


Life outside Earth may be found in seven planets. Seven Earth-size planets have been discovered around the Trappist-1 dwarf star in the Aquarius constellation just 39 light years away (English). The finding elevated hopes of finding alien life beyond our solar system as the seven temperate planets could contain liquid water.



Quote of the Week


“Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”


-Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), American Founding Father and the third President of the United States. Quote from a letter to Colonel Charles Yancey (6 January 1816)




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