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.
- Companies have been producing more oil and gas than ever, which empowered Trump’s tagline of “energy dominance.”
- But all of that supply is actually a core reason many were already struggling before coronavirus hit.
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.
- "He approaches this issue as a true populist, up until this crisis."
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.
- In the short term, expect bankruptcies and layoffs.
- In the longer term, experts are warning that oil prices — and therefore gasoline prices — will rise more in the coming years than they would have absent the pandemic due to how classic boom and bust cycles work.
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.