‘Global dominance’ the theme as Trump starts energy week

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2017

President Trump will double down on achieving “global energy dominance” this week with an appearance at the Department of Energy, leaving some industry experts wondering about the White House’s intentions abroad.

The busy week of high-profile meetings will culminate with Trump’s appearance at the DOE headquarters in Washington on Thursday for an “Unleashing American Energy Event” hosted by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, according to an invitation obtained by E&E News.

The invite notes Trump’s dedication of the following days as “energy week” to help the U.S. achieve “global energy dominance.”

The administration’s focus on energy is the latest in a series of themed weeks — infrastructure and tech, for example — that have run face first into an ongoing battle over health care legislation and a deepening investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election.

Today, Trump will meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an event that could become awkward given the two world leaders’ disagreement over the Paris climate pledge (Climatewire, June 23).

Perry is then slated to appear alongside Sean Spicer at the White House press briefing tomorrow, according to DOE, followed by a panel at the White House on Thursday where Trump will host Perry, U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to discuss the administration’s catchphrase “energy dominance.”

Perry is also slated to be at a forum sponsored by the U.S. Energy Information Administration tomorrow, speaking alongside Colette Honorable, an outgoing commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The slogan “energy dominance,” which falls in lockstep with Trump’s push for expanded domestic drilling and fast-tracked exports, is piquing interest at home and abroad.

“One of the questions I have is exactly what the administration means by energy dominance,” said Adam Sieminski, chair for energy and geopolitics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former administrator of the Energy Information Administration. “I was at a meeting last week when someone from the U.K. said they weren’t particularly looking forward to being ‘dominated.'”

Sieminski said he looked up the definition of “dominance” and one synonym was “pre-eminence.”

“That kind of suggests everyone is OK with your leadership, that’s good, that’s a win-win kind of thing,” he said. “But if the administration views it as dominance by the U.S., there’s going to be a lot of pushback.”

One possible way to have a heavier hand over the global energy landscape, Sieminski said, would be for the Trump administration to only export and import energy commodities from certain countries instead of allowing the markets to decide.

The administration could, for example, make the case DOE no longer needs to determine the public interest of liquefied natural gas exports before approving sales abroad.

But ultimately, Trump’s push for world dominance will have to contend with market dynamics, he added.

While the U.S. could try to create bigger markets for coal — an issue that’s likely to dovetail with Trump’s meeting with Modi — Sieminski noted that countries like Australia and Indonesia already export large amounts.

As for LNG, Sieminski said a drop in oil prices — not a federal approval backlog — has slowed exports from the United States.

While it’s early to talk about the Trump administration’s legacy, Sieminski said pounding the drum on “energy dominance” could allow the White House to make the ideological case for opening up more federal lands to oil and gas drilling and fast-track export approvals.

“Especially with the executive orders, they’re trying to deliver on the idea that government shouldn’t stand in the way,” he said. “You could talk about legacy in four years; I think what we’re talking about now is aspirations.”