March 12, 2019 / 11:13 PM / 5 months ago

Pompeo calls on oil industry to support U.S. foreign policy agenda

HOUSTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the oil industry on Tuesday to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Addressing top executives of the world’s largest energy companies and oil ministers in Houston, Pompeo said in prepared remarks that America’s newfound shale oil and natural gas abundance would “strengthen our hand in foreign policy.”

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said Washington would use all its economic tools to help deal with the situation in Venezuela, which is mired in a years-long economic crisis and where socialist President Nicolas Maduro is maintaining power despite being disavowed by the United States and about 50 other countries.

Washington reimposed oil sanctions on Iran last year, sharply reducing its volume of crude exports in the past several months in an effort to curb Tehran’s nuclear, missile and regional activities. “We’re committed to bringing Iranian crude oil exports to zero as quickly as market conditions will permit,” he said.

“We need to roll up our sleeves and compete – by facilitating investment, encouraging partners to buy from us, and by punishing bad actors,” Pompeo said in his prepared remarks.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the NordStream II project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

‘ENERGY DOMINANCE’

Pompeo’s speech punctuated the second day of IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, where U.S. oil and gas executives, energy luminaries and officials of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries gather annually to discuss global energy development.

The speech came the same day Pompeo met with top oil executives for about an hour to try to persuade energy companies to help the administration’s efforts to boost crude exports to Asia and to support its policy of isolating Iran.

The outreach marked a stepped-up effort to sway oil executives to support the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda by advancing diplomatic and policy objectives through rapidly expanding U.S. oil and gas exports.

The United States is looking to make significant progress on a Middle East security alliance over the next few months, Pompeo said. The alliance is an attempt to form a U.S.-backed bloc of Sunni Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait as a bulwark against Shi’ite Iranian influence in the Middle East.

Pompeo criticized China for “blocking energy development in the South China Sea through coercive means,” which he said prevents Southeast Asian countries from accessing more than $2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Reporting by Collin Eaton in Houston and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Additional reporting by Ron Bousso in Houston; Editing by Peter Cooney

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