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OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo. Photo: AFP Contributor / Getty Images

A member of the commission that oversees Texas' oil production spoke Friday with OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo.

Why it matters: The extraordinary chat between Barkindo and the Texas Railroad Commission's Ryan Sitton underscores the unprecedented upheaval in global oil markets and the collapse in prices.

What they're saying: "Great conversation on global supply and demand. We all agree an international deal must get done to ensure economic stability as we recover from COVID-19," Sitton said via Twitter, adding that Barkindo invited him to OPEC's June meeting.

  • Via Reuters, Barkindo confirmed the discussion and told the news service he discussed his "perspective on current developments, and the possibility of future cooperation."

The big picture: Travel and economic freezes from COVID-19 are cratering global oil demand, while Saudi Arabia and Russia are waging a price war following the rupture of their output-limiting agreement this month.

  • Prices for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, have fallen by two-thirds since early January, and are now at their lowest levels in roughly two decades.
  • A suite of U.S. oil companies have announced plans to sharply cut back their spending.

Driving the news: Sitton, in a Bloomberg op-ed Friday morning, floated the idea that the commission could use its power to require a 10% cut in U.S. production — if the Saudis cut theirs by 10% from pre-pandemic levels and Russia does too.

  • He said this would stabilize prices in the mid-$30s per barrel (they're around $20 now) and "stave off a total oil industry meltdown."
  • His op-ed also notes that the federal government would need to make such a deal.

But, but, but: Wayne Christian, the Texas commission's chairman, threw cold water on the idea of imposing production curbs in a Friday statement.

He noted, among other reservations, that it hasn't happened in more than 40 years and that "we do not have staff at the agency with experience in this process and our IT capabilities to handle this process are limited at best."

What's new: Reuters reported Friday afternoon that the Trump administration "intends to send a senior official to Riyadh to boost efforts to stabilize energy markets."

  • Trump on Thursday signaled an interest in trying to somehow intervene in the Saudi-Russia dispute.
  • Bloomberg reports there have been "tentative signs" that Russia and the Saudis "may be edging towards an off-ramp from the price war."

Go deeper

Alabama trying to use COVID relief funds to expand prisons

Inside the Julia Tutwiler Correctional Facility in Wetumpka, Alabama in 2018. Photo: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

Alabama state lawmakers are trying to funnel up to $400 million of the state's American Rescue Plan funds to pay for a $1.3 billion plan to build and renovate prisons across the state, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Diverting dollars from the COVID-relief package, passed in March, is prompting criticism over misuse.

58 mins ago - World

Jake Sullivan discussed human rights and Yemen with Saudi crown prince

MBS in 2018. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed efforts to end the war in Yemen, the de-escalation of regional tensions with Iran, and Saudi Arabia's human rights record in their meeting on Monday, a senior U.S. official told Axios.

Why it matters: This was Sullivan's first trip to the Middle East since taking up his post in January, and he was the most senior visitor to the kingdom so far from the Biden administration, which has kept the crown prince at arm's length over his roles in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Top Pentagon officials contradict Biden on Afghanistan advice

Photo: Carolone Brehman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Top military leaders confirmed in a Senate hearing Tuesday they recommended earlier this year that the U.S. keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and that they believed withdrawing those forces would lead to the collapse of the Afghan military.

Why it matters: Biden denied last month that his top military advisers wanted troops to remain in Afghanistan, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "No one said that to me that I can recall."