Soaring energy prices: thank you Donald Trump!

Since March, worldwide oil and gas prices have taken off, by about 25% for oil and nearly 50% for gas in Europe. The causes are, above all, geopolitical, with several flashpoints: Iran, Venezuela, China… and one single detonator: the United States, under the leadership of Donald Trump.

 The prices of natural gas in Europe have followed those of oil, further aggravated due to a gas ‘cleanliness premium’, reflecting the recent increase in CO2 prices.

Although tensions with North Korea have temporarily eased (but with no notable progress toward eliminating the North Korean nuclear threat…), the tactics used by Donald Trump’s United States remains the same: withdrawal from signed agreements, threats of new unilateral sanctions (or new tariffs), some semblance of negotiation, but above all seeking a position of strength in order to make adversaries surrender, even when they are allies such as Europe or Canada… All to please an extremist US electoral base, but one that is growing narrower in the run-up to the midterm elections in November.

Where is it all going?

A quick reminder of recent events:

In early May, Donald Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal – expected for several months – from the Iran nuclear agreement, reached in 2015 with France, the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as Russia and China. Although all of these countries announced their intention to continue respecting the agreement, with the Iranians having effectively stopped their military nuclear activity, the consequences on the price of oil were immediate: many companies, following Total’s lead, withdrew from their oil or gas projects in Iran, with the prospect of American sanctions on their interests in the United States being so crippling.  This has opened Iran’s doors to new players, beginning with China… While the motives announced by Donald Trump were to include a component on ballistic missiles in any new agreement with Iran, the primary goal seems to be toppling the Islamic Republic, whose leaders reacted by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. It’s no surprise that oil prices have soared!

Mid-June: Trump – Kim Jong-un summit in Singapore. A non-event, with no real consequences on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but a resounding victory for Kim Jong-un, treated as an equal by the United States! Donald Trump seems to be more at ease in the company of tyrants than in that of democratically-elected leaders… but ever since, no progress has been recorded, which leaves two dangerous nuclear proliferation problem areas (Iran and Korea) completely open.

Early August: assassination attempt on N. Maduro, just re-elected president of Venezuela in May in a precipitated early presidential election, with a single round of voting… In fact, the successor of Hugo Chavez consolidated his grip over a country that was already worn out, grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis. Oil production in the country is in freefall, partly due to an economic blockade imposed by the United States. OPEC and Russia, without needing to reimpose quotas that are too restrictive, were thus able to take advantage of the increasing scarcity of the global oil offering and help oil prices maintain their upward momentum.

Mid-September: decision to impose additional tariffs of 10% on $200 billion worth of imports to the United States from China. The new tariffs will affect everyday products (refrigerators, furniture, television, toys, electronic products, etc.). The United States practically imports for $500 billion from China each year, and with the tariffs already in place, half of Chinese imports will be affected! And the new tariffs could reach 25% by the end of the year, driving the United States even deeper into an increasingly protectionist approach – in the short term at least, as American consumers will see great losses resulting from this policy in the long term: the price of cars in the United States, for example, should increase by nearly 10% simply because of the tariffs on steel and aluminium.

China seems ready to take harsh retaliatory measures which, this time, would include the export of American refined oil products and LNG to China, in addition to agricultural products.

Outlook

Even though the U.S. House of Representatives could switch in the November elections, the Senate should remain Republican. And even if Donald Trump were forced to resign following the accumulation of scandals around him, his replacement by Vice President Mike Pence wouldn’t change the extremist political attitude of the Republicans in power for an additional two years.

But several factors could result in a period of calm for energy prices:

  • as mentioned earlier, China seems prepared to block American LNG, redirecting its demand toward Qatar, Australia, Papua New Guinea and even Russia. The United States would lose one of their largest LNG customers – a potential godsend for Europe, which could benefit from an American LNG bubble with prices in the domestic market suffering;
  • The United States has just surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the top oil producer in the world, thanks to the shale oil (and gas) revolution… and the growth of American production is expected to continue its momentum for several years. The result could easily mean a drop-in oil prices.

Oil and gas producers in the US, it seems, will be among the first victims of Donald Trump’s policies… but it would be excellent news for energy prices, especially in Europe!

Philippe Lamboley

 

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Each month, one of our experts publishes an article describing his view on a specific topic of the constant changes taking place in the energy market, with special focus on the French market.

Profesional Experience

Céline, a young and dynamic person, had a first experience in the tourism sector as a community manager at Loups du Gévaudan, in Lozère. She joined HES team in November 2021 to diversify her knowledge: learning about the energy sector, specialising in marketing strategies in order to improve the company’s customer relations and, at the same time, developing her skills in coordination and project management.

Education

Céline graduated in Spanish and English Language, Literature and Civilisation at La Sorbonne IV (2018). She also holds a master’s degree II in cultural projects and establishments management, with a special focus on international tourism. She also studied abroad at the University of London (England) and Universidad de Morón (Argentina).

Céline Haya Sauvage

Marketing Responsible

DSC_0323

“Decarbonization of the Energy and Transport sectors is arguably today’s main economic driver for the industry.”

Profesional Experience

His career started in civil engineering as a Project Manager in France, Martinique and Australia. Afterwards, he became the General Manager of a subsidiary in Venezuela. In 1992, he established Dalkia in Germany (district heating, cogeneration, and partnerships) and represented Véolia in Thailand. In 2000, he opened the commercial office of Endesa in France to take advantage of the liberalized retail market. From 2006, as a development Manager at Endesa France, he led Endesa’s plan for Combined Cycle generation in France and developed the wind and PV portfolio of Snet at the same time. Philippe Boulanger worked for 3 years at E.ON’s headquarters coordinating the company´s activities in France. He was strongly involved in the French hydro concession renewal project. As a Senior Vice President – Project Director at Solvay Energy Services from April 2012 to February 2014 he was in charge of the H2/Power to gas and European direct market access deployment projects. Philippe has been an HES expert since 2014.

Education

Philippe Boulanger holds engineering degrees both from the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Nationale des Ponts & Chaussées (France) and has a combined experience of more than 25 years in energy and infrastructure. In addition to English, Mr. Boulanger is fluent in French, German & Spanish.

Philippe Boulanger

Electricity Expert

HES-Philippe-Boulanger

“The world is changing. New investors pay particular attention to the energy sector while historical actors adapt their position to the market.”

Profesional Experience

Antonio started his career in the electricity sector in 1991 working as a member of staff for the General Manager of Sevillana de Electricidad (Spain). In 1997, he was in charge of the commercial regulation at Endesa Distribution. In 2000, he joined Endesa’s European M&A department. He was appointed CEO of Endesa Power Trading Ltd in 2003. He became Head of Energy Management for SNET, France, in 2004 and was appointed CEO of this company in 2008. In 2009, he held the position of Head of Corporate Development for E.ON France. In 2011, he founded Haya Energy Solutions (HES), a consulting firm which assists companies in optimizing their value chain: from strategy definition to day-to-day operations, based on a strong experience and understanding of the energy industry. From 2015 to 2018, Antonio was Chairman and CEO of 2 French CCGTs (2x410MW), owned by KKR. At the end of 2018, he joined Asterion Industrial Partners, a dedicated infrastructure investment fund, as an Operating Partner.

Education

Antonio graduated from the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros of Seville (Spain) and holds an MBA degree from Deusto University (Spain).

Antonio Haya

CEO