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An oil rig drilling into the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The White House is weighing options to provide financial assistance to U.S. oil producers getting hammered by the price collapse, but the picture is murky right now.

Why it matters: It's a sign of the rapidly worsening conditions for the sector and the Trump administration's scramble to respond to the effects of the coronavirus and falling prices.

Driving the news: The internal discussions were first reported by the Washington Post, and subsequently confirmed by Axios.

  • I've also learned that independent oil-and-gas producers via the American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC) has been in touch with the White House on the topic.

Where it stands: There's a bunch of ideas flying around. The WashPost reported that low-interest federal loans were the most likely option for the potential aid.

  • Bloomberg reports that some industry lobbyists are pitching the idea of the government buying up some oil to put into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
  • That would "enable the government to take at least 78 million barrels off the world market and provide a modest bump in prices," per Bloomberg.
  • The same story also says that administration is considering a separate idea of lowering royalties on oil and natural gas produced on federal lands.

The intrigue: The Washington Examiner reports that there's some pushback from conservatives to the idea of financial aid for producers.

  • Their piece has comments from officials with the Heritage Foundation and the Institute for Energy Research.

What they're saying: AXPC CEO Anne Bradbury said in a statement Tuesday that the group wants "a solution that ensures American companies can continue to invest in and produce low-cost, reliable energy."

  • "We believe in the free market system and will advocate for policies that support a level playing field to address geopolitical manipulation of the market," she said.

Go deeper

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.