OPEC on Trump tweets, legislation allowing lawsuits against it

OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo
OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

HOUSTON — Legislation allowing the U.S. government to sue OPEC would not serve America or its booming oil industry, the secretary-general of the oil-producing group said Tuesday at an energy conference here.

Why it matters: The policy, which has bipartisan support in Congress, would upend global oil markets. President Trump has long been critical of OPEC and years earlier backed the bill in question, but division is rampant elsewhere across the government, according to several people familiar with the dynamic.

"The legislation as it stands would not serve the interest of the United States. ... We remain confident that reason will prevail and these strong voices that have been echoed across party lines would be taken into account in the deliberations."
— OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo

The big picture: America’s oil production has more than doubled over the last decade, going from 5 million barrels a day (b/d) in 2008 to what is estimated to be more than 12 million b/d this year. America is now the world’s biggest producer of both oil and natural gas.

The boom in American oil is giving Trump a tool to test the nearly 60-year-old OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). The more than a dozen nations in the organization are mostly in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia the dominant member.

The intrigue: Barkindo admitted as much at the conference, CERAWeek by IHS Markit. Since last year, Trump has tweeted several times at OPEC, blaming the group for rising oil prices. Barkindo said he welcomes Trump's tweets. The tweets, Barkindo said, are "one of the new additions to the recent uncertainties because the president doesn't give notice before he tweets."

"We welcome the president joining this dialogue. He is the No. 1 producer. He has become a major exporter on a global scale, not only [of] crude oil but also liquids, also [liquefied natural gas], and because of the importance of this industry in the U.S., a very strategic segment of his constituency, it is understandable why he is keeping his eyes on what happens globally on this industry."
— Barkindo

Go deeper: Trump administration divided over OPEC oil policy