Apr 21, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump says he’ll help beleaguered oil industry


Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Tuesday that the Energy and Treasury departments will “formulate a plan” to help the oil and gas industry, which is imploding as a result of rock-bottom prices.

Reality check: Trump’s policy levers are limited in nature and cannot change the overall downward trajectory of oil prices, which have spiraled dramatically as the coronavirus has choked off demand for oil.

One level deeper: Trump renewed his push Monday for the government to buy roughly 75 million barrels of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — or, alternatively, offer part of the SPR as basically a rental storage unit for U.S. companies.

  • "This is a great time to buy oil," Trump said. Congress has not funded the effort thus far in its coronavirus relief bills.
  • Trump also touted plans to use the SPR as storage space. "We're going to ... either ask for permission to buy it, or we'll store it," he said.
  • The Energy Department last week said it's negotiating with nine companies to store roughly 23 million barrels of oil in the SPR.

What we’re watching: What kinds of policies are born out of Trump’s tweet.

  • Trump's reference to the Treasury Department indicates he may try to give some sort of fiscal or tax relief, which could help some companies but won’t provide an overall lift to the sector.
  • The president has also floated taxing imports of oil, which countries like Saudi Arabia are opposed to.
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