Beijing's tariffs on U.S. liquefied natural gas threaten to raise prices for buyers throughout Asia and deal a self-inflicted wound to China's state-owned energy companies.
The import tax on American LNG essentially removes U.S. suppliers from consideration at trading desks across China's growing LNG market. There are plenty of supplies elsewhere in the world, but in closing the door to U.S. LNG, China is throwing a wrench into the market and giving sellers an opportunity to hike prices.
In the year through June, China was the second biggest buyer of U.S. LNG, according to energy research firm Wood Mackenzie.
China is trying to shift from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas as the government aims to reduce air pollution. But the country's domestic gas production and pipeline imports are not growing fast enough to meet demand, so China is turning to LNG, a form of natural gas super-chilled to liquid form and transported by sea in massive tankers.
Despite its dependence on LNG, Beijing nevertheless imposed a 10 percent tariff on U.S. supplies last month, retaliating after the Trump administration slapped a 10 percent import tax on $200 billion of Chinese goods.