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By James Rainey

It took just a few hours into the new year for President Donald Trump to do what he has done repeatedly through his first two years in office — claim credit for positive economic news.

“Do you think it’s just luck that gas prices are so low, and falling? Low gas prices are like another Tax Cut!” Trump exclaimed on Twitter.

It took critics a few more hours to do what they have often done during the first two years of Trump’s tenure — assert that the president was oversimplifying, at best.

Trump’s claim of positive pocketbook news for Americans appeared to be offered, at least in part, as an antidote to a sour 2018 on Wall Street, where stocks posted their worst performance in a decade.

The outlook was much better for consumers at the fuel pump, where gas dipped to less than $2 in some locations and to less than $2.25 in thousands of other spots, energy analysts said in November.

Not long after, President Trump took to Twitter to thank Saudi Arabia for keeping oil prices low. “Oil prices getting lower,” he wrote. “Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy!” Later that same day, Thanksgiving eve, he quipped that he had driven gas prices so low that “more people are driving and I have caused traffic jams throughout our Great Nation.” Adding: “Sorry everyone!”

Experts said Trump can take some credit for the increased supply of gas that has driven prices lower, but that fuel economics is a hugely complex subject, impacted by many variables.

The influence that Trump can legitimately claim some credit for is the increase in production that has accompanied America’s massive increase in hydraulic fracturing — the process of pumping liquid underground at high pressure to free up oil and gas deposits.

“There has been an increase in production that has put a downward pressure on prices. He can claim some credit for that,” said Severin Borenstein, director of the Energy Institute at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “But, at the same time, most of the increase in production took place well before Trump took office, in the 2010 to 2015 time period.”

But while the U.S. has become the biggest oil producer, most of world’s supply comes from other nations only tangentially influenced by Trump, or any other American, experts said.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its dominant player, Saudi Arabia, have talked about restricting production to drive up prices, but have largely failed to do so. The cartel next meets in Austria in April to consider another production-limit proposal that theoretically could drive up prices.

The glut of oil from Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations has been magnified because another major oil source, Iran, has seen its exports increase. Though President Trump promised to get tough on the regime in Tehran, his deal to reinstate sanctions on Iran included waivers that allowed eight countries to temporarily buy oil from Iran.

Combined with the OPEC production, the freed-up Iranian oil has helped to glut the market.

“You could say he helped lower oil prices, but he did it by being weaker than expected on a country he’s labeled as an enemy of America and by potentially derailing economic growth through a trade war with China,” Ashley Petersen, a senior oil market analyst at the energy advisory firm Stratas Advisors told Vox. “Not exactly bragging points.”

Petersen also emphasized that tying one’s economic fortunes to the notoriously volatile price of oil and gas is a dicey proposition. “There are so many variables that go into oil prices, almost none of which are under his control, that taking credit for a price drop will inevitably backfire when the price rises again,” Petersen added, in the same interview.

The discussion about the benefits of lower gas prices also leaves unmentioned a collateral impact: Cheaper gas increases consumption and automobile emissions, adding to Earth-warming greenhouse gases, said Borenstein, the business professor.

“Lower gas prices surely make people happy,” said Borenstein. “But they also lead to more investment in low fuel economy cars and more driving. And that means even less progress on fighting climate change, which we know is largely man made.”



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Trump sitting out Davos summit where technological change, inequality loom large

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By Stephanie Ruhle and Michael Cappetta

DAVOS, Switzerland — The world’s financial and political elite, including more than 60 heads of state and government, will converge here this week for the annual World Economic Forum.

But there will be at least one notable absence at the five-day summit.

President Donald Trump is sitting out the marquee event. He withdrew amid the partial government shutdown that has dragged on for more than 30 days.

The pullout is not just an apparent attempt to keep the focus on the American political impasse over immigration. It is also another example of Trump’s “America First” administration disengaging from the world.

Chinese officials won’t have the chance to continue trade talks with the administration in the hopes of settling the pending trade war.

International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde will not be able to share insights on monetary policy and slowing global growth with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

America’s allies from around the world will not be able to coordinate with the United States on pressing topics including climate change, refugees and the future of globalization.

The leaders in government and business who congregate at the Swiss Alpine town will nonetheless move ahead with wide-ranging discussions of science and technology, income inequality and other high-stakes issues.

Davos attendees are generally excited about technological advancements such as automation, artificial intelligence and research in genetics — even as some of those leaps threaten to leave untold workers out in the cold.

The debates could become contentious around questions of workplace diversity and inclusion, where strides are being made in several countries amid faint but mounting calls from traditional forces to preserve the status quo.

The growing divide between worker and executive pay, in particular, has many political leaders, philanthropic figures and business titans grappling for solutions.

The founder of the forum, Klaus Schwab, said in a recent interview that he believes the world is undergoing a “fourth industrial revolution” amid fast-paced technological change.

Schwab told the Associated Press that he believes too many workers around the world are being left behind, and that he would like to see more “equilibrium” between national needs and global challenges.

“We are living in an interdependent, global humanity and there are global challenges like the environment, like terrorism, like mega-migration for which we have to find common solutions,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among the heads of state expected at the Jan. 22-26 gathering.

And while Trump plans to remain in Washington, top U.S. officials — including the heads of the Commerce, State and Treasury departments — are expected to attend the snowy retreat.

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Bananas! Tory MP sends BIZARRE Tweet linking Brexit delay with BANANA BREAD

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A CONSERVATIVE MP has compared Brexit to banana bread in a bizarre post on Twitter.

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BREXIT BOMBSHELL: Labour reveal plot to SEIZE control from May – ‘ALL options on table’

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LABOUR has tabled an amendment it hopes will suffocate Theresa May’s Brexit strategy by stripping the Prime Minister of her control and giving power to Parliament after her Plan B announcement flopped in the Commons this afternoon.

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