Here’s what oil experts think of what Trump has done for the energy markets so far
Donald Trump has already done a lot for the oil industry in his short time as president—and the industry is cheering.
Just a few days after his inauguration, he signed executive orders to revive two major oil pipeline projects that were caught up in regulatory and environmental hurdles: the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.
The “most critical move” was to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to “proceed with its largely completed pipeline construction project,” said Jay Hatfield, co-founder and president of InfraCap.
The project had received all major approvals and the pipeline, which is expected to transport crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois, was under construction when it was stopped by the Obama administration because of concerns that it will contaminate drinking water and disturb Native American burial sites.
Trump’s order “removes a significant regulatory overhang on the U.S. MLP (master limited partnership) sector,” said Hatfield, who is also portfolio manager of InfraCap’s MLP exchange-traded refer to publicly-traded limited partnerships.
Trump also revived the Keystone XL pipeline project, which is poised to bring Canadian crude to Nebraska. TransCanda Corp. submitted a presidential permit application for approval of the pipeline a few days after the executive order.
There is no question that “pipelines are far more desirable than alternate forms of surface transportation of oil,” said Charles Perry, chief executive officer of energy-consulting firm Perry Management.
But Perry points out that even more importantly, the “major thing” Trump has done for the energy industry has been his “roll back on regulations,” particularly when it comes to coal.
The market was “getting ready to have a funeral for coal, and now it looks like it will recover,” said Perry. Trump’s executive order essentially requiring the government to ease back on regulations could help the coal sector bounce back.
In a report released in early January of this year, the Energy Information Administration said U.S. coal production in 2016 was expected to total 743 million short tons—17% lower than in 2015 and the lowest level since 1978. Coal’s share of electricity generation has declined in recent years amid competition from cleaner-burning natural gas.
But under his energy plan, Trump said his administration is “committed to clean coal technology and to revising America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for so long.”
He has “reined in” the Environmental Protection Agency and has stopped support for efforts to stem global warming, said Perry.
Trump’s skeptical view over climate change has helped to clear the way even more for the parts of the energy industry held back by environmental restrictions.
The administration has indicated that it will expedite approvals of future energy projects—and that “should increase growth prospects for the sector and reduce regulatory risk,” said Hatfield.
“The president’s cabinet [picks] are probably the most energy-friendly in modern history,” he said, mentioning Scott Pruitt, chosen to head the EPA and Rex Tillerson, chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM, +0.42% for secretary of state, and Rick Perry for energy secretary.
Given that, Hatfield believes shares of Energy Transfer Partners LP ETP, -0.46% , the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, are “undervalued” and expects the stock to outperform after its merger with Sonoco Logistics Partners LP closes, which is expected in the first quarter of this year.
The MLP sector, as a whole, is also “undervalued relative to its long-term fair value with average yields of over 7% vs. a normal yield in the 4-5% range,” said Hatfield.