Chinese tariffs on LNG, oil aim at U.S. energy dominance agenda

FILE PHOTO: A seagoing barge is loaded with crude oil from the Eagle Ford Shale formation at the newly expanded crude dock at the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas. REUTERS/Darren Abate/File Photo

NEW YORK/BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s targeting of U.S. liquefied natural gas and crude oil exports opens a new front in the trade war between the two countries, at a time when the White House is trumpeting growing U.S. energy export prowess. China included LNG for the first time in its list of proposed tariffs on Friday, the same day that its biggest U.S. crude oil buyer, Sinopec, suspended U.S. crude oil imports due to the dispute, according to three sources familiar with the situation. On Friday, China announced retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion (46.13 billion pounds) worth of U.S. goods, and warned of further measures, signalling it will not back down in a protracted trade war with Washington. That could cast a shadow over U.S. President Donald Trump’s energy dominance ambitions. The administration has repeatedly said it is eager to expand fossil fuel supplies to global allies, while Washington is rolling back domestic regulations to encourage more oil and gas production. “The juxtaposition here is clear: it is hard to become an energy superpower when one of the biggest energy consumers in the world is raising barriers to consume that energy. It makes it very difficult,” said Michael Cohen, head of energy markets research at Barclays.

The U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of fuels such as gasoline and diesel, and is poised to become one of the largest exporters of LNG by 2019. U.S.

LNG exports were worth $3.3 billion in 2017. China is the world’s biggest crude oil importer. China had curtailed its imports of U.S. LNG over the last two months, even before its formal inclusion in the list of potential tariffs. It had also become the largest buyer of U.S. crude oil outside of Canada, but Kpler, which tracks worldwide oil shipments, shows crude cargoes to China have also dropped off in recent months. It comes at a time when the United States has several large-scale LNG export facilities under construction, and after Trump’s late 2017 trip to China that included executives from U.S. LNG companies. China became the world’s second-biggest LNG importer in 2017, as it buys more gas in order to wean the country off dirty coal to reduce pollution. China, which purchased almost 14 percent of all U.S. LNG shipped between February 2016 and May 2018, has taken delivery from just one vessel that left the United States in June and none so far in July, compared with 17 in the first five months of the year.