Apr 14, 2017

Saudi Aramco CEO’s Iranian brushback

Hasan Jamali / AP

Because of its rare capacity to add a lot of new oil onto the global market, Iran has emerged as one of the most disruptive forces in OPEC. Which is probably what got into the craw of the CEO of Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil giant today. Asked whether Iran will be his biggest competition, Amin H. Nasser was withering.

"Who?," said Nasser, drawing laughter at a Columbia University energy conference on Friday.

Why this matters: Iran has raised its oil production by about 1 million barrels a day — to roughly 4 million — since oil sanctions were lifted in January of 2016 as part of a nuclear research accord with the West. It remains far below the approximately 10 million barrels a day produced by Saudi Arabia, OPEC's dominant producer. But price is determined at the margin — when a player like Iran or the US shale oil patch adds a few hundred thousand barrels a day to the market, it can send oil prices plunging.

Nasser, echoing recent International Energy Agency findings, said that the global oil glut, which has been responsible for the plunge in oil prices over the last three years, is "getting close to rebalancing." And he said deferred or canceled investments by oil companies since 2014 could lead to a supply shortfall. "While the short-term market points to a surplus of oil, the supply required in coming years is falling behind," he said.

No peak: Nasser said the world is a long, long way from easing its thirst for his company's products. Referring to a new theory in the oil world—that demand for oil will peak over the coming decade and a half, and thus threaten the income of OPEC and other producers, he said, "Our belief is that peak demand is not in sight."

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,094,068 — Total deaths: 58,773 — Total recoveries: 225,519Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 273,880 — Total deaths: 7,077 — Total recoveries: 9,521Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
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  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
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Government will cover uninsured patients' coronavirus treatment

Azar at Friday's briefing. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The federal government will cover the costs of coronavirus treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a White House briefing Friday.

How it works: The money will come from a $100 billion pot set aside for the health care industry in the most recent stimulus bill. Providers will be paid the same rates they get for treating Medicare patients, and as a condition of those payments, they won't be allowed to bill patients for care that isn't covered.

More states issue stay-at-home orders as coronavirus crisis escalates

Data: Axios reporting; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order on Friday as the novel coronavirus pandemic persists. The order goes into effect Saturday at 5 p.m. and will remain in place through April 30. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also issued a statewide social distancing order on Friday.

The big picture: In a matter of weeks, the number of states that issued orders nearly quadrupled, affecting almost 300 million Americans.

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