Trump Tuesday: China, Qatar and Coal.

China Breaks Its Silence on 90-Day U.S. Tariff Truce
Chao Deng and Grace Zhu, The Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2018

China is beginning to flesh out details of a weekend tariff truce with the U.S., after days of vague Chinese statements and a barrage of comments from President Trump and other administration officials. China’s Commerce Ministry in a statement Wednesday acknowledged for the first time that Beijing on Saturday agreed to a 90-day cease-fire to allow negotiations to take place. The statement, attributed to an unnamed spokesman, said that the negotiations have a “clear timeline and road map” and that China aims to quickly implement “an agreed upon consensus.” Also this week, key government agencies and China’s supreme court announced tough punishments for infringing on intellectual property—a prominent complaint by the Trump administration.

Qatar Leaves OPEC
Nikos Tsafos, Center for Strategic & International Studies, December 4, 2018

For the oil market, the impact is likely minor—Qatar is a small crude oil producer, and its liquids production is far greater than its crude oil production anyway (see graph below). But for an organization whose cohesion has always been shaky, and at a time when the market is trying to divine OPEC’s next moves, this is hardly an encouraging sign. The most obvious question is whether any other countries will follow; even if they do not, Qatar has sent a strong signal about what it thinks of OPEC, and that message will weigh on other countries and their deliberations. It also raises some questions about OPEC’s market strategy, especially in light of the very robust growth in U.S. oil production, and whether the OPEC-plus partnership with Russia has come at the expense of the more technocratic approach that served Saudi oil policy well for years.

From the Washington Examiner, Daily on Energy:

TRUMP’S EPA TO MAKE IT EASIER TO BUILD NEW COAL PLANTS: The Environmental Protection Agency is expected Thursday to propose weakening an Obama-era rule that would have required new coal plants to be built with expensive technology that captures carbon emissions from their smokestacks.

Industry sources told Josh that the Trump administration’s EPA will introduce a replacement rule regulating emissions from new coal plants that would not force them to be built with carbon capture and storage, also known as CCS.

The coal industry had argued that the Obama administration’s New Source Performance Review Standard would be a de facto ban on new coal plants, because it effectively would have mandated carbon capture, which is technically feasible but cost-prohibitive in many cases.

EPA wants higher-efficiency coal plants: The Trump EPA’s version of the rule would soften the standard, encouraging so-called higher efficiency critical or supercritical power plants that burn coal at higher temperatures than conventional technologies.

Coal industry gives thanks: “We are supportive of EPA’s decision to revise the standards for new coal plants,” Michelle Bloodworth, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, told Josh. “If we are ever going to build new coal plants in the country again, we will need reasonable standards.”