Morning, and welcome to another week in our grave new world.
My latest Harder Line column looks at Trump's uneven and evolving comments on the oil industry in turmoil. I'll share a glimpse of that, and then Ben Geman will get you up to speed on other news.
Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,124 words, 4 minutes.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
President Trump is working to help an oil industry imploding as the coronavirus crisis chokes demand, but listen closely and you’ll hear his enduring love for cheap prices.
Why it matters: He’s like most Americans, who worry about energy only when it’s expensive or gone. As president, Trump has been slow and uneven in responding to the sector’s turmoil because of his inclination to cheer rock bottom prices.
The big picture: Trump often says — wrongly — that the oil industry was doing great before the pandemic.
How it works: Click here to read my full column with a representative timeline of Trump’s evolving comments on oil over the past month: March 9, 12, 19, 26, 30, and April 2 and 3.
The intrigue: "Up until recently, he has had very little sympathy for oil companies," said one person familiar with Trump's thinking, who requested anonymity to talk candidly about the president's sentiment.
Reality check: Storing more oil and most other options Trump has at his disposal are limited, and the industry is divided on what the government should do. Turmoil, both in the short- and long-term, is all but guaranteed for the embroiled sector.
The bottom line: The irony, of course, is that right now, most of us can't take advantage of these rock bottom prices as we're locked down. When we can drive and fly again like normal, prices are poised to rise.
The new few days are slated to bring new efforts to achieved a coordinated cut in global oil production, but success is hardly a sure thing.
Why it matters: COVID-19 is fueling an unprecedented collapse in demand and has cratered prices, so new cutbacks could at least temper — though hardly alleviate — the market's tailspin.
Driving the news: The OPEC+ group — led by megaproducers Saudi Arabia and Russia — is tentatively scheduled to meet remotely Thursday, per multiple reports.
The big question: Whether there's an opening for U.S. participation in a deal, even though the U.S. market and legal system does not enable top-down production decisions or coordinated industry action.
But, but, but: Trump has also hinted at more of a stick than carrot approach, while repeatedly claiming in recent days that the Saudis and Russians are closing in on a deal to enable a cut of 10-15 million barrels per day.
Where it stands: Prices surged Thursday and Friday on the prospect of a Saudi-Russia agreement, but fell when markets opened last night after weekend signs of the fraught path to a deal.
Tea leaves this morning seem to be pointing toward a deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia to revive their joint supply curbs.
Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia's sovereign wealth fund, tells CNBC that they're "very close" to an agreement.
Amrita Sen, analyst with the firm Energy Aspects, tells Bloomberg that she thinks chances for major deal are low, but that said, she points out the forces prodding the Saudis.
The big picture: Regardless of how the diplomatic initiatives play out, the most powerful market force by far will remain the demand collapse from the pandemic.
The G20 is emerging as a venue for cooperative efforts to try and calm the oil market, and Bloomberg and others report that a potential meeting of G20 energy ministers could be Friday.
Driving the news: U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette discussed the G20 role during a wider discussion over the weekend with his Saudi counterpart, a DOE spokesperson tells Axios.
What they're saying: "[T]he two energy ministers agreed to continue this dialogue through a G20 Energy Ministers meeting in the near future," Hynes said.
Catch up fast: The Saudis currently hold the G20's rotating presidency.
Deals: "Toyota Motor Co. and Chinese electric automaker BYD Co. announced a partnership Thursday to develop battery-powered vehicles, adding to a flurry of industry tie-ups to share soaring development costs." (AP)
Coronavirus: "In a new video posted on the company’s YouTube channel, Tesla’s engineers show off two versions of the ventilator, a prototype model with its components laid out across a desk, as well as a packaged model that shows how it might look when used by a hospital." (The Verge)
Federal data shows that the amount of gasoline American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, Amy reports.
Driving the news: When most of us are staying home and not driving, this is one of the most predictable — but nonetheless still staggering — upshots of the unfolding coronavirus crisis.
By the numbers: