Oil lobbyists met with White House staffers to discuss markets amid OPEC price war, coronavirus

  • Lobbyists representing the oil and gas industry met with White House officials to discuss coronavirus, the state of the economy and the market, a spokesperson for American Petroleum Institute told CNBC.
  • The meeting comes as the market has been roiled by fears of coronavirus and deteriorating talks between OPEC and Russia.

Lobbyists representing the oil and gas industry met with White House policy staffers Wednesday morning to discuss coronavirus, the state of the economy and the market, a representative for the American Petroleum Institute told CNBC.

The meeting comes as the market has been roiled by fears of coronavirus and deteriorating OPEC talks. After negotiations between OPEC and Russia fell apart on Friday, OPEC’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday slashed its oil prices and announced plans to increase production. This led to a selloff in oil markets and pressure on U.S. energy producers.

Oil prices on Monday plunged 24%, marking the worst day since 1991. Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said on Wednesday that the company had been asked to supply a record 13 million barrels per day in April. Oil fell 4% Wednesday.

Still, the American Petroleum Institute, which represents companies including Halliburton, Hess and Occidental Petroleum, is not seeking federal aid, said the the spokeswoman, Bethany Aronhalt. That statement comes despite reports Tuesday indicating President Donald Trump was considering a federal aid package for the shale industry, potentially in the form of low-interest loans. An official told CNBC that the White House doesn’t want the potential assistance to be perceived as a bailout.

White House declined to comment. 

API CEO Mike Sommers told Bloomberg on Tuesday the group’s focus is on balancing the oil market.

“What we have here is a demand shock, of course, because of coronavirus, and a supply shock, because of the decision by Russia and the Saudis to flood the market with oil,” Sommers said. 

“So, we are concerned about these geopolitical factors that are feeding into some downturn within the industry … right now, we trying to make sure policymakers are responding in the right way. But, ultimately, the solution here is to work in a diplomatic way to make sure oil markets are well-balanced,” he said. 

“We’re focused on making sure the free-market works, not on some government intervention that would be outside the market,” he added. 

The Department of Energy on Tuesday suspended the sale of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that would have put more oil into the market, a move Sommers applauded.

“We want to make sure the government continues to make these kinds of decisions that are good for the oil industry,” he said.

CNBC’s Pippa Stevens contributed to this report.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/oil-lobbyists-met-with-white-house-staffers-amid-opec-price-war-coronavirus.html

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