Apr 7, 2020 - Energy & Environment

How the U.S. could join a global oil deal

An oil pumpjack in Russia.
An oil pumpjack in Russia. Photo: Yegor Aleyev\TASS via Getty Images

President Trump may have said out loud what's on the minds of people wondering about the prospects for a new international deal to pare back oil production: whether the U.S. could essentially join without a firm commitment.

Driving the news: On Monday evening, Trump said OPEC has not explicitly asked him to press U.S. oil companies to cut production, but added that U.S. output is slated to fall due to market forces as demand collapses.

  • "I think the cuts are automatic, if you're a believer in markets," Trump said at a White House briefing, adding companies are "already cutting" and "it's the market, it's supply and demand."

Why it matters: The comments suggest how the U.S. could offer de-facto participation in a deal, even though top-down mandates are not part of the U.S. market system.

  • The question could come to a head very soon, with the OPEC+ and G20 energy minister meetings scheduled for later this week.
  • Saudi Arabia and Russia may not commit to major cuts without action by the U.S., the world's largest producer.

What they're saying: "The G20 forum could provide space for a looser arrangement where explicit U.S. cuts are not necessarily required and market-led decreases in U.S. production can potentially be repackaged as a U.S. contribution," the Eurasia Group said in a note Monday.

  • A number of other analysts are thinking the same thing. “I think there is already an understanding between Saudi Arabia, Russia and the U.S.,” Citigroup analyst Ed Morse tells Bloomberg.
  • “The U.S. is a party to the agreement, in effect, because the price of oil is already reducing drilling activity to an extent that production will likely be down 1 million barrels a day by the end of the third quarter.”

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