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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

Anti-abortion activists' Supreme Court dreams are coming true

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photos: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

This is the moment the conservative legal movement has been building toward for decades: The solidly conservative Supreme Court is about to hear two major abortion cases within a month of each other.

Why it matters: All of this is likely to end with significant new restrictions on abortion and a clear path for Republican-led states to win the next big abortion cases, too — the culmination of a long and bitter fight for control of the judiciary.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
28 mins ago - Economy & Business

Trump's volatile return to the stock market

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios Visuals 

Donald Trump this week became both a meme stock and a social-media entrepreneur at the same time, by announcing that a new company called Trump Media & Technology Group was going to merge with an existing company listed on the stock market.

Why it matters: The medium-term promise of Trump's media company is that it will replace Twitter for anybody wanting to keep track of Trump's messages. The short-term promise is that it can be a hot new speculative vehicle for people wanting to get rich quick in the stock market.

Updated 10 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.