Zinke Defended Trump’s Tariffs Amid Concerns They Will Hurt The Oil Industry

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke downplayed concerns that steel and aluminum import tariffs pose a threat to oil and natural gas producers.

“I agree with the president that national security-wise, you have to have produced steel and aluminum in this country, and that industry has atrophied too far,” Zinke told reporters on Tuesday at the CERAWeek conference in Houston.

Zinke’s comments reflect those of International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol, who said oil and gas industry growth would dwarf any negative impacts from tariffs.

“Even if there is some impact here and there, the production growth is so strong and the related financial benefits are so lucrative that it will find a way to go to the export destinations,” Birol said on Monday.

President Donald Trump is expected to approve a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum. Trump is aiming to help steel workers but has so far only angered Republican lawmakers and a lot of other industries.

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The oil and gas industry has come out against tariffs, especially pipeline companies. Pipelines, valves and other parts are largely built with imported steel. There isn’t enough U.S.-produced steel to meet demand, pipeline companies argue.

“We don’t think it would be appropriate to put a tariff on something you can’t buy here in the United States,” Plains All American Pipeline CEO Gregory Armstrong said at CERAWeek.

“We’ll survive no matter what. It’s a thornier issue than printed in the headlines,” Armstrong added.

Tariffs were necessary to reinvigorate U.S. manufacturing, though Zinke noted long-term tariffs could hurt the economy.

“Long-term tariffs generally disrupt free markets and raise costs, but it is also incumbent on the American steel companies themselves … to re-fit and rebuild,” Zinke said.

Trump said he would not back down from setting tariffs but did suggest Monday that tariffs would be rescinded if the North American Free Trade Agreement is successfully renegotiated.

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