The Weekly Brief: US Global Impact

May 22, 2017 edition— NAFTA negotiations start in August; China and the US cooperate on LNG; and residential solar capacity fell.




Editorial Interlude


We hope that you enjoy reading the Weekly Brief: U.S. Global Impact as much as we enjoy putting it together each week. Many thanks to all our readers who shared their thoughts and suggestions as we tweaked the coverage and style of this, our latest Weekly Brief offering. The feedback has been tremendous and we are confident our coverage of U.S. and North American energy issues from an outsider’s perspective is meeting an important need.


A quick heads-up that our extended free distribution of the Weekly Brief: U.S. Global Impact will end with the June 12 edition. All readers will need to transition to a paid single user subscription or company-wide package by then. We’ll be in touch on how to do that soon – in the meantime, enjoy this week’s edition!

– the Weekly Brief: U.S. Global Impact team


Last Week in a Minute or Less


Renewables & Electricity. New US residential solar capacity dropped 17%; nuclear energy faces retirement; and Maryland approved two offshore wind farms.


Natural Gas & Liquid Fuels. China and the US agree on LNG cooperation; propylene inventories keep growing; and Central Atlantic petroleum product exports increased in February.


Oil & Gas Upstream. Saudi Aramco will sign 10 agreements during Trump’s visit, and Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed to extend the production cut.


Money & Power. NAFTA negotiations will start by summer’s end, Wall Street was affected by Trump’s crisis on Russian interference, and Mueller is named to investigate it.


Déjà vu all over again. Last week’s readers were particularly interested in Mexico’s trust on NAFTA (English); Northeast readiness to face summer (English); and the increase in utility-scale solar (English).



Keeping Track of Trump


Trump’s cuts may scrub the clean out of clean coal. The Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts could menace the clean coal projects announced with fanfare during the presidential campaign. The development of the carbon capture and storage technology needed in clean coal projects requires government funding (English).


Trump considers beheading the DOE budget. According to a draft budget, the Trump administration plans to cut the renewable and energy efficiency program at the Energy Department by 70% (English). Even if Congress blocks the cut, it shows the Trump administration’s commitment against renewable energy and sets a low point for negotiations.


Democrats will fight Trump on FERC nominees. Environmental activists and Democrats pledged to fight President Donald Trump’s nominees for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson. More than 160 activist groups urged the Senate to oppose the nominees (English).


US Justice Department named Mueller as special counsel. Former FBI chief, Robert Mueller, has been named special counsel to investigate the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election (English). The appointment came after a source said that President Donald Trump pressed former FBI Director Comey to end the Flynn investigation (English).



Energy Policy


Propylene inventories reached a 12-week high. US stocks of propylene increased to 3.147 million barrels on May 05, locating propylene inventories at the highest level in twelve weeks (English). Refinery rates fell to 91.5%, but remained above the 89.6% rate seen this time last year.


Maryland hopped on the offshore wind farm wagon. Maryland regulators approved two offshore wind farm projects by US Wind Inc and Skipjack Offshore Energy (English). The projects would have a combined 368MW capacity with 77 turbines and they would be the second and third US offshore wind farms.


New England defies Trump on carbon taxes. Legislators in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington defended proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a tax or fee (English). A carbon tax, like the one implemented in British Columbia, is one of the most effective strategies to reduce carbon emissions.


US residential solar capacity additions dropped 17%. New additions to California’s residential solar capacity fell by 22% from the last quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017 (English). As California is roughly 45% of the US residential solar market, the market contraction out west affected the national performance.



Boundary Issues


US retailers back NAFTA… US retail associations urge the Trump administration to support NAFTA, to maintain hundreds of thousands of textile and clothing jobs in the US and retail operations in 50 states (English). The associations agree to update NAFTA to improve future trade patterns.


…and the NAFTA countdown was set in August. The Trump administration established mid-August as the starting date to renegotiate NAFTA’s provisions for digital trade, intellectual property rights, labor and environmental standards, and regulatory practices. The US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer started a 90-day consultation period with Congress and the industries (English).


China and the US will cooperate on LNG trade. The US and China agreed to a closer cooperation in the energy sector, improving access of LNG exporters from the US to China (English). The agreement is the first of ten initial actions to be developed under the US-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue framework.


Central Atlantic petroleum product exports were up in February. The Central Atlantic region exported 103,000 barrels per day, a record high in February (English). The rise was explained by lower prices in the Central Atlantic region compared to other regions. Europe received 50% of the exports while Central and South America, 28%.



International Affairs


Erdogan’s visit was full of tensions. Nine people were hurt after an altercation in front of the Turkish ambassador’s residence during the Turkey’s president’s visit in Washington D.C (English). Tensions with Erdogan have risen over the Trump administration’s decision to arm Kurdish fighters (English).


Trump extended Iran’s sanctions relief. President Donald Trump expanded sanctions relief under a 2015 international nuclear deal, after imposing narrow penalties on Iran and China for backing the Iranian ballistic missile program (English). Although Trump criticized the nuclear agreement during the campaign, the relief demonstrated that Trump decided to keep it.


Saudi Aramco is looking forward for Trump’s visit. The Saudi company signed agreements with ten companies, including Baker Hughes, General Electric, Halliburton, Jacobs Engineering Group, KBR, and Schlumberger, during President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia (English) (English). The deals were signed by May 20.


Trump revealed classified information and is okay with it. President Donald Trump shared highly classified information during the Russian ambassador and foreign minister’s visit to the White House (English). Afterward, Trump noted he has “the absolute right” to share information with Russia to discuss sensitive material on terrorism (English).



Macro Trends


Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed a production cut extension is needed. Russia and Saudi Arabia announced their agreement that the oil output reduction should be prolonged until the end of March 2018 (English) (Spanish). The announcement triggered a 2% increase in oil prices within an hour.


America’s nuclear capacity is slowly going downhill. Nuclear capacity will be reduced by 25% according to announced retirement plans by 2050 (English). Today, nuclear power represents 20% of electricity generation in the US and almost all nuclear plants began operation between 1970 and 1990.


Wall Street was shaken by the Trump crisis. The S&P 500 and the Dow suffered their biggest fall in one day since September 9 after reports covered President Trump’s alleged interference in a federal investigation (English). The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 270 points and gold futures climbed by 1.9% (English).


The Fed won’t go bursting any bubbles. Minneapolis Federal official Neel Kashkari advised not to use interest rate hikes to face asset bubbles (English). Kashkari said bubbles are difficult to identify and hikes could hurt more than help.



Lateral Thinking


Trees move north and west with climate change. The warm climate has been moving Eastern US trees 124 kilometers north and 130 kilometers west since the 1980s (English). Although the northward move was expected, scientists were surprised by the move to the west, which was more prominent and present in more species.



Quote of the Week


“Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which are there.”


-Richard Feynman (1918-1988), leading physicist and science author



We hope you have a productive week. Please send any news, comments, or sightings of migrating trees to


Tell your friends and colleagues about the Weekly Brief! They can sign up for a free one-month trial here.