Mar 12, 2019

OPEC on Trump tweets, legislation allowing lawsuits against it

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

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Japan to close schools through late March to control coronavirus outbreak

A couple takes photos in front of the Olympic rings in Tokyo. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that the government will ask elementary, middle and high schools around the country to close until late March as an attempt to contain its novel coronavirus outbreak, AP reports.

Why it matters: The government's decision — impacting 12.8 million students across 34,847 schools — comes as concerns mount about the spread of the virus in Japan, which has 189 confirmed cases and hundreds more abroad the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Go deeper: The latest coronavirus updates

What the coronavirus means for Trump's presidency

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A poor response to the coronavirus could be politically devastating for President Trump, and so far his administration has given the strong impression that it’s still scrambling as the risk of a pandemic mounts.

Why it matters: There’s only so much any president can do to stop a virus from spreading, and for now the coronavirus is still very much under control within the U.S. But if the disease get worse in the months ahead, and if the administration seems to be caught off guard, that spells trouble for public confidence in Trump.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Health

Coronavirus updates: New global case numbers surpass China's

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. As Denmark and Estonia reported their first cases Thursday, Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia — which has 23 confirmed infections — told a news conference, "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health