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Tellurian co-founder Charif Souki. Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

A top natural gas executive, Charif Souki, praised the Trump administration’s rhetoric supporting natural gas but chided it for being slow out of the gate in approving permits to export the fuel.

The big picture: Rhetoric matters, but action matters more, and here President Trump has actually been slower than his predecessor.

The intrigue: I asked Souki, c0-founder of Tellurian Inc., a three-year-old Houston-based natural gas company, to rank the current administration’s handling of his export project so far. The scale was 1 to 10, 10 being great, 1 being terrible.

  • “In terms of attitude and intent for industry, probably an 8 or 9. Execution, a 5,” Souki told me on the sidelines of the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference. “It’s like every new administration, it takes time to figure out how the system works.”

Where it stands: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent agency whose regulators Trump appoints, late last month approved the first application to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports in 2 years, despite a backlog.

“The first two years of the administration, not a single permit was issued for a new LNG facility. Whatever you want to say in terms of attitude about the Obama administration, they got some liquefaction facilities permitted. … Do I think the Trump administration has learned from their first two years? Yes. Eventually they’ll get there.”
— Charif Souki

For the record: Neil Chatterjee, chairman of FERC, responded to Souki's comments upon his arrival at the CERAWeek conference Tuesday evening. The Kentucky native invoked winners of the well-known Triple Crown races, including the Kentucky Derby, in his comments to suggest he's not worried about the ultimate outcome (more U.S. gas on global markets).

"Justify was slow out of the gate. So was American Pharoah. They both won the Triple Crown."
— Neil Chatterjee

What’s next: Tellurian is working to build an export terminal in Louisiana backed by its own gas resources and pipelines that allows partners to gain equity, a business model it hopes can ensure cheaper prices than competitors.

  • It's projected to begin operating in early 2023, pending (you guessed it) timely FERC approvals.
  • The company received its final environmental statement from the agency in January and awaits a final order, possibly as soon as next month.

What we’re watching: Chatterjee is slated to speak at the conference Thursday.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters gathered outside fortified statehouses across the U.S. over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
9 hours ago - World

China's economy grows 6.5% in Q4 as country rebounds from coronavirus

A technician installs and checks service robots to be be used for food and medicine delivery in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, China, on Sunday. Photo: Hu Xuejun/VCG via Getty Images

China's economy grew at a 6.5% pace in the final quarter of 2020, the national statistics bureau announced Monday local time, topping off a year in which it grew in three of four quarters and by 2.3% in total.

Why it matters: No other major economy managed positive growth in 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic was first detected in China, the country got the virus under control and became one of the main positive drivers of the global economy even as the rest of the world was largely under lockdown.