May 25, 2018

Trump's Iran Policy Is Blowing Up His Energy Agenda

14 May 2018, 10:58 | Glen Norman

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The Trump administration has given buyers 180 days to wind down imports after pulling out of a landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

While Saudi Arabia is ready to work with other producers to mitigate any impact of a shortage following the United States move, Goldman Sachs Group said the sanctions could push prices above its forecasts and Bank of America Corp. sees a possibility oil could rise to $100 a barrel next year.

The administration would be wise to coordinate strategies on both the Iran and Saudi Arabia nuclear programs. That reality will weigh heavily during key talks this week, even as calls grow for Europe to stand up for its ideals and interests, and speak with a strong, collective voice.

"Now we're starting to see that gap close, so this could be a bit of a short-term rally for the energy sector", he said.

Iran will ramp up production imminently and exclude itself from any ongoing OPEC agreement. The matter is also expected to be taken up by European Union leaders during a summit Thursday in Bulgaria. However, he does not rule out that now Iran may try to maximize production and export of oil, before the sanctions come into effect.

"Do we want to be a vassal that obeys and jumps to attention?"

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Germany's minister for economic affairs, Peter Altmaier, said on Sunday that Berlin will try to "persuade the USA government to change its behaviour".

US bank Goldman Sachs said renewed sanctions and risks to supplies elsewhere, especially in Venezuela, meant there was a high possibility of higher prices than the bank's summer Brent price forecast of $82.50 per barrel.

Analysts have outlined other ways Europe can push back.

This, combined with collapsing oil production in Venezuela - previously a major oil producer - has significantly shrunk global oil levels. By midway through last week, European diplomats "felt like we were going through the motions", a European official said. Iran has not been increasing exports even though they have been working hard to increase capacity because of the existing OPEC deal.

The sources familiar with the debate said Trump wanted a separate agreement with the other main signatories of the original deal - France, Britain, Germany, China and Russian Federation.

The resumption of sanctions against Iran reduces the chance for further extension of the OPEC + deal on the current conditions in the future, otherwise the oil deficit will become more probable in 2019, Dmitry Marinchenko, Director of Fitch Corporation, says.

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But standing up to Washington may not be so simple.

"We were for it and we worked on it", another Saudi source said of Riyadh's diplomacy.

The energy sector in equity markets rallied, helping lift European stocks, a gauge of world equity performance and the broad USA market. Such forecasts undergird the administration's calls for US "energy dominance", which administration officials have defined as "a self-reliant and secure nation, free from the geopolitical turmoil of other nations that seek to use energy as an economic weapon". But its oil minister said on Thursday that Trump's decision to quit the pact would not affect Tehran's exports. This will add additional pressure on OPEC. The top fifth spend just 1%.

Carl Bildt, the former prime minister of Sweden who is now co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, complained that new sanctions "are hardly hitting any US companies, but aim primarily at European ones".

Ignoring pleas by allies, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday pulled out of an worldwide nuclear deal with Iran that was agreed in late 2015, raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East and casting uncertainty over global oil supplies.

Recent history is likely to weigh into its decision. Getting around it means changing transactions to euros, as part of a larger move to increase financial independence from the United States.

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