President Trump during a coronavirus briefing at the White House on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
April 2 at 8:17 AM
A group of major U.S. oil and gas executives are set to meet with President Trump on Friday to discuss the historic crash in the oil prices triggered by the covid-19 pandemic. But company executives and oil-state politicians are divided about how the federal government should stop the sector’s bleeding.
The top executives of several huge U.S. multinationals, including ExxonMobil chief Darren Woods and Phillips 66 chief Greg Garland, as well as the heads of some independent producers, such as Continental Resources founder Harold Hamm, are expected to outline their struggles during a devastating drop in demand for oil, as Americans keep cars parked and planes grounded to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
Trump seemed eager to take steps to help: “Look, we have a great oil industry and the oil industry is being ravaged,”Trump told reporters Wednesday. “We don’t want to lose our great oil companies. You know, we’re the number one producer of oil in the world.”
Yet those who have the president’s ear don’t agree on the role he should play in arresting the crisis.
Smaller U.S. shale companies, many of which are deeply in debt, are asking for aggressive federal action to halt the flow of foreign crude into the United States that is making their reserves uneconomic to tap. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has set off a fierce price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that has flooded the global market with oil and sent the price per barrel into free fall, down by more than 60 percent since the start of the year.
Hamm, an Oklahoma-based shale pioneer and outspoken Trump donor, has called for tariffs to be placed on Saudi oil imports and has gone so far as to accuse the kingdom of illegally “dumping” into oil into the market. Saudi Arabia “has moved to essentially flood the market with crude oil,” Hamm said in an interview on Bloomberg Television last month.