The energy sector needs to appreciate that they have “a huge friend in the Oval Office” and that the administration of President Donald Trump understands the important role the energy sector plays in the U.S. economy, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said September 28 at the Shale Insight 2017 conference in Pittsburgh.
“I understand last year’s speaker did pretty well,” he joked, referring to the 2016 Shale Insight conference, when then-candidate Donald Trump addressed the gathering. The industry should utilize coalitions and groups to bring any issues in front of the right decision-makers in the administration, Spicer said. “They understand that what you’re doing benefits this country in enormous ways,” through expanding LNG exports, reducing the trade deficit and boosting manufacturing jobs, Spicer said in one of his initial public appearances after leaving his job at the White House.
Previous presidents had talking points about an “all of the above” energy strategy, “but nobody did anything” to carry it out, whereas Trump believes in energy dominance, which means being able to tap natural resources without harming the environment and not having regulations that stifle innovation and private investments, Spicer said.
When asked about Trump’s proclivity for using Twitter, Spicer said it is something the president feels strongly about as a way to speak directly with the American people in an unfiltered format. Trump knows some media outlets or others try to distort his messaging, so he views social media as an important tool for communicating with the public.
Spicer said the administration is making progress on presidential appointments and nominations for key posts after having a slow start in the early months after Trump took office. The Senate confirmation process has dragged on for many individuals due to delays in the chamber, but the confirmation process is “fairly on track compared with other administrations,” he said. Some positions may not be filled without a review and determination on the mission of a specific office that it is still viable, he added.
Addressing renewable resources and political pressure to support those resources compared with fossil fuels, Spicer advised the attendees to make their points known within the government and decide how much time and effort they want to spend on such issues. He related that the agriculture sector has an enormous influence on U.S. trade policies, but the actual trade policy impact on the sector is a bit limited. His point being that the agriculture industry makes sure their voice is heard and advocates for certain policies, and that political support for renewable resources “is not too big to overcome.”
Other speakers at the conference focused on state policies and how decisions made at the state level affect infrastructure investment. Pennsylvania stands to gain millions of dollars in economic benefits from Shell’s 2016 decision to build an ethane cracker facility in Beaver County, but state lawmakers considering production taxes threaten to hinder other investments or drive them to other states, speakers from the Marcellus Shale Coalition said.
“We need competitive, pro-energy, pro-growth policies from our state legislators,” because each of the three states are competing for job creation and private investments, said Maribeth Anderson, director of government and community relations at producer Southwestern Energy. Referring to the three state capitols where taxes and other issues are being debated, Anderson said “policies in Columbus, Charleston, and Harrisburg can drive us forward or hold us back.”
Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania are courting midstream and downstream investments tied to oil and natural gas production gains, including natural gas liquids (NGLs) such as ethane that will be used as feedstock for Shell’s $6 billion facility being built about 30 miles from Pittsburgh. The facility will produce polyethylene resin pellets for use in plastics manufacturing, and the region’s supply of ethane was one of the factors that prompted Shell to choose Beaver County for the facility, officials with Shell said.
The supply of ethane and NGLs is going to be “a strong catalyst” for a manufacturing resurgence in the region, said Jim Christiana, a Republican state lawmaker representing part of Beaver County where the Shell facility is being built along the Ohio River. He said that the project is the largest private investment in Pennsylvania since World War II, and David Ruppersberger, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance referred to construction jobs and indirect jobs that will be supported by the Shell facility.
West Virginia is trying to develop a storage project for NGLs to support downstream investments in the petrochemical sector, Ruppersberger noted.
By Tom Tiernan TTiernan@fosterreport.com
This article appears as published in The Foster Report No. 3167, issued September 29, 2017
Copyright © 2017 by Concentric Energy Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.