Energy Blog

Energy Blog

US Chamber of Commerce Blog

Sean Hackbarth A PEMEX employee fuels a scooter at a company gas station in Mexico City, Mexico.A PEMEX employee fuels a scooter at a company gas station in Mexico City, Mexico.Photo credit: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg.

North American trade is the new Commerce Secretary’s top priority.

Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC, “The first on our agenda is NAFTA because we think it makes sense to solidify your own neighborhood first.”

Since trade agreement is 24 years old, it’s not surprising that there are areas where NAFTA could be modernized.

Recently in a speech in Canada, U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue noted that “things like e-commerce and the digital economy didn’t even exist when NAFTA was negotiated more than two decades ago.”

Another applicable area is energy.

Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.), whose state economy has benefitted greatly by the trade agreement, wrote in Politico:

Consider the nation’s energy landscape. It has changed dramatically since the trade deal was hammered out in the 1990s. With the recent lifting of the U.S. crude oil export ban and Mexico’s energy reforms, a renegotiated deal should account for regulatory cooperation and capacity-building provisions that promote investment and the free flow of American energy, particularly a streamlined approval process for LNG exports.

Given the U.S.-Mexico energy trade relationship, changes with NAFTA on this front could have important implications to U.S. companies.

Mexico is the United States’ number two energy trading partner behind Canada. Oil imports from Mexico have decreased while U.S. exports of petroleum products (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc.) to Mexico have gone up. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) points out:

In 2015 and 2016, the value of U.S. energy exports to Mexico, including rapidly growing volumes of both petroleum products and natural gas, exceeded the value of U.S. energy imports from Mexico as volumes of Mexican crude oil sold in the United States continued to decline.

Mexican crude oil production is declining, while more of it is going to Europe and Asia instead of the U.S.

As for natural gas, EIA notes how it is a growing part of Mexican electricity generation:

According to Mexico’s national energy ministry (SENER), more than 60% of Mexico’s electric capacity additions between 2016 and 2020 are projected to come from natural gas-fired power plants, and significant natural gas capacity additions are expected to continue through 2029.

With the fracking boom, U.S. natural gas can be sold to our southern neighbor. Again from EIA:

Expected demand growth will be met mainly by a combination of increasing imports of natural gas from the United States and by large expansions of both cross-border U.S.-Mexico pipeline capacity and Mexico’s domestic natural gas pipeline networks.

What’s more, these numbers don’t fully take into account the increasing opportunities U.S. energy companies--developers, service companies, and equipment manufacturers--now have as Mexico opens more domestic energy development to foreign companies.

Any modifications to NAFTA must take these changes into account to protect these mutually-beneficial (and job-creating) gains. Keeping barriers to the flow of investment and energy low is good for U.S. businesses and consumers.

At the same time, strengthening energy ties among Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. will make North America businesses more competitive, helping American workers.

U.S. Chamber Staff President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference.President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference.Photo credit: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg.

President Donald Trump has been in office a little more than five weeks, and many of the actions he has taken have been aimed at jumpstarting our economy – the number one challenge facing the country.

The best way to address this challenge is through pro-growth policies. As U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue said recently in Baton Rouge, “Growth won’t solve all of our problems, but we can’t solve any of them without it.”

President Trump has already signaled that he will be focused on driving growth in the U.S. economy. Ahead of his first address to Congress, take a moment to look at what he’s done and what he should do in the months ahead to help our economy grow faster.

Trump’s Early Achievements

President Trump has made regulatory relief and energy infrastructure top priorities.

He told federal agencies that they must reduce regulatory costs.

He signed executive orders expediting reviews and permitting for important infrastructure projects and pushed construction of the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines.

He instructed the Labor Department to review its fiduciary rule, which would hurt the retirement savings options of small businesses and their employees.

He signed a law rolling back duplicative regulations on coal producers.

And he quickly nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

However, while these actions are a step in the right direction when it comes to encouraging economic growth, more work lies ahead.

A Growth Agenda for Trump

In the State of American Business address, Tom Donohue laid out the American Growth Agenda, a set of policy priorities to revitalize the American economy. By embracing these priorities, President Trump can harness the momentum he’s generated to drive the economy forward. Here are a few.

Health Care

In pushing for fixes to our health care system, President Trump should work to end harmful Obamacare taxes--the Health Insurance Tax, the Cadillac Tax, and the medical device tax--and remove costly and ineffective mandates. It’s especially important that any reform support—and not jeopardize—the employer-sponsored health coverage most Americans depend on.


President Trump should work with Congress and the business community on the first comprehensive tax reform in over three decades. Pro-growth reforms will encourage investment and innovation, grow businesses, create jobs, and boost wages.

Legal Reform

Part of making our economy great again is fixing America’s broken lawsuit system. Congress has prioritized a series of legal reform proposals designed to put real victims ahead of plaintiffs’ lawyers, and stop fraud and abuse of the civil justice system. President Trump should work with Congress and sign these legal reforms when they come to his desk.

Regulatory Reform

Now is the time to reexamine how high-impact federal regulations are written.

That can be done with the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA). The RAA would improve accountability, transparency, and participation in the rule-making process, and it would take encroaching federal power away from unaccountable federal agencies and return it to Congress and the people.

To kick off the session, the House passed the RAA with a bipartisan vote of 238-183 on January 11. President Trump should work with Congress to sign the RAA into law.

Embracing American Energy

President Trump should continue to make American energy production and infrastructure a priority by reviewing regulations, speeding up the permitting processes, and utilizing our vast domestic energy resources.  

Infrastructure Modernization

American businesses need strong, dependable infrastructure in order to move products and serve customers quickly and efficiently. Their ability to do so determines whether our economy grows or shrinks. It’s time to invest meaningfully in modernizing our country’s roads, bridges, highways, airports, and more, and President Trump should work with Congress to find a long-term, sustainable funding solution that ensures our infrastructure meets job creators’ needs for generations to come.

Looking Ahead

Meaningful policy change in the federal government takes time, so patience is necessary. Remember, President Trump is still getting his teams in place across all the federal agencies.

But even in the few weeks he has been president, progress has been made on a number of fronts. If he pushes ahead with sensible policies that focus on economic growth, President Trump will see an economy that grows faster, creates millions of good-paying jobs, and revives the spirit of the American Dream.

U.S. Chamber Staff U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue.U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue.Photo credit: Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Just as it did in Chicago and Phoenix, the U.S. Chamber’s #LetsGrow Tour stopped in Baton Rouge to learn what can be done to generate faster economic growth.

U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue explained that faster economic growth would do wonders for Americans:

But think about what stronger, long-term growth will achieve: Job creation will accelerate, incomes will rise, poverty will decline, investments will flood in, innovation will flourish, and our deficits will shrink.

Here’s the difference: Over the next decade, growing at 3% instead of 2.5% would mean 1.2 million more jobs, another $4,200 in average incomes, and over $3 trillion sliced off our debt.

Those numbers get a lot bigger at 4%!

In fact, a mere half-point boost in the annual growth rate over a 30-year period generates around $25 trillion in extra revenue. That means more money to rebuild our military, fix our schools, invest in research, repair our infrastructure, rebuild our inner cities, and properly care for the sick, the elderly, and our veterans. For businesses, it means more customers, more sales, more income, and more access to capital.

Stronger, faster economic growth is the one thing that’s good for every business, large and small … for every American, rich and poor … and for everyone in government who wants to see more revenue to fund our programs and services. And we need to make sure this growth benefits every region, every community, and every American.

What are some policies that can spur growth? Donohue laid out a few.

Regulatory Reform

There is no justification for the regulatory overkill we have seen over the last 8 years. No one has been hurt more by this overkill than America’s small businesses … except maybe the people those small businesses couldn’t hire as a result. An unelected fourth branch of government—the regulatory branch—is holding our small business sector back while imposing unnecessary costs on larger companies too.

Producing American Energy

Energy presents a huge growth and jobs opportunity for the American people. We’ve got to prudently develop the abundant natural resources our country has been blessed with—and put them to work for our economy, our workers, our consumers, and governments at all levels. And we can do so safely and while protecting the environment.

We can generate more growth and jobs by making America’s infrastructure the best in the world. We should seize the opportunity created by the bipartisan support for infrastructure.

Tax Reform

What we need is a tax code that will lower the business tax rate, which is now the highest in the industrialized world when you add in state taxes. We need a tax code that will significantly lower individual tax rates as well. Millions of small businesses file as pass through entities, and their marginal rates can exceed 50 percent in some states. And we need a tax code that will encourage investment and capital formation and enhance America’s competitiveness.

Selling More American Goods and Services

Overseas markets are important. Two-thirds of all exporting companies are small businesses. They rely on trade to fill their order books, expand their customer base, and meet payroll.

Exports count for a significant portion of sales for most larger companies.

Global supply chains are highly integrated—many U.S. manufactured goods are comprised of parts that are sourced from all over the world. This improves efficiency, lowers costs, and allows each nation to focus on what they do best.

Therefore, we should be seeking to expand trade, not restrict it. All of our polices should be geared towards increasing our exports, attracting job-creating capital from all over the world, and advancing American competitiveness in the global economy.

Americans’ limitless imagination can be unleashed. “We just need to foster them, nurture them, and reward them,” Donohue asserted. “For that, we need the right policies—and a grassroots army of business activists to push them through at the federal, state, and local levels.”

Donohue also chatted with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo about the U.S. Chamber’s #LetsGrow Tour.