Thursday, April 12, 2018

Could trade war hurt West Virginia's energy sector?

The escalating trade war with China could hurt not only agriculture, but West Virginia's energy sector. "That’s because the China Energy Investment Corp. signed a non-binding $84 billion 20-year deal with the state to help it develop its petrochemical sector that wants access to abundant and cheap shale gas. It is especially needed in a place that has seen its coal industry lose ground to more competitive and cleaner electric generation fuels," Ken Silverstein writes for Forbes.

Steve Roberts, chair of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, told Silverstein that the state is on friendly terms with the Chinese, and that "We have to do this in an international environment in which nations huff and puff. We have things that are very valuable to them and we have to go through a process to see if we can do a deal with each other. The relationship is actually improving and that is a good sign." 

China has its own shale gas reserves--it's the third-largest producer after the U.S. and Canada--and is shifting increasingly to natural gas from coal, but the reserves are in difficult to access areas, so it must import shale gas to meet demand

West Virginia sits on a huge shale gas reservoir, but Silverstein fears the Chinese could choose to delay implementing its deal to put pressure on Trump, or choose other sites to develop such as the Marcellus or Utica Shale basins. China could also buy more liquefied natural gas from Canada, but a larger export terminal would need to be built.

Roberts told Silverstein that West Virginia "is trying to make the necessary investments in infrastructure and education that can keep China’s full attention."

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