Apr 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump reluctant to intervene in imploding oil market

President Trump

President Trump. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

President Trump indicated Friday he’s unlikely to take major steps to prop up oil prices and help an industry imploding as coronavirus chokes oil demand.

Why it matters: The pressure is now on for a planned Monday meeting of OPEC and other producing nations to strike a deal absent big action by the U.S. government. If that falls through, the industry could plunge even further into the abyss. Prices, now hovering below $30 a barrel, could breach $10, some experts say.

Driving the news: After meeting with oil-industry executives Friday afternoon to discuss options to help the ailing sector, Trump seemed to only endorse finding more places to store oil.

  • That move would be a small and fleeting band-aid.
  • Trump also said he isn’t thinking of imposing tariffs on oil imports as of now, an idea pushed by some domestic producers.
  • The industry itself is divided on the scope of help the government should offer.

The big picture: As the pandemic threatens lives around the world, it’s shutting down a global economy driven by oil consumption. This, along with a related price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, is sending oil prices into a tailspin and producers scrambling to stay afloat.

What they’re saying: Despite tweeting earlier this week that he had talked to leaders of both Saudi Arabia and Russia, Trump suggested Friday that he wants to stay out of it. “Ultimately the marketplace will take care of it. I think they are going to work out their problem fairly quickly,” the president said.

What we’re watching: Whether Texas or other producing states bypass the federal government to try to hash out a deal to curtail production.

What to watch: Monday's virtual meeting is planned with Saudi Arabia, other members of the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries, Russia — collectively known as OPEC+ — and possibly other producing nations.

Go deeper: Trump calls to fill up more places with oil

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