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Trump To Monitor OPEC Meeting As Low Oil Prices Hurt U.S. Firms


There's been a lot of buildup to a meeting today - well, a virtual meeting - of OPEC and Russia as they face an oil glut and very low prices for their crude. President Trump is going to watch this closely. He's trying to push them, especially Saudi Arabia, to cut production. He says the low prices are threatening the U.S. oil industry. Here's NPR's Jackie Northam.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: When crude oil prices began spiraling downwards a month ago, President Trump was overjoyed. Low prices at the gas pump made drivers across the U.S. happy. But that was before the coronavirus forced virtually everything to shut down, says Ayham Kamel with the Eurasia Group.

AYHAM KAMEL: I think that, initially, low oil prices were perceived to be good until it became clear to him that low oil prices mean a lot of job losses in many states. Some of these states are critical in his reelection campaign, especially Texas.

NORTHAM: Thousands of jobs in the U.S. shale oil industry are at risk if rock-bottom prices continue. President Trump has long made it clear he is no fan of OPEC, something he repeated yesterday.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: For many years, I used to think OPEC was very unfair. I hated OPEC. You want to know the truth? I hated it because it was a fix.

NORTHAM: Now Trump needs the cartel to come to an agreement to limit production, which in turn will raise oil prices. And that means trying to patch up the dispute between Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC member Russia that led to the slide in prices. Daniel Yergin is an oil expert at IHS Markit.

DANIEL YERGIN: The United States has stepped into the role, particularly President Trump, not so much as a deal-maker but as a divorce mediator between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

NORTHAM: Yergin says there's a lot of posturing and messaging going on from all sides ahead of today's meeting. He says, despite this, he believes all countries are going to want to reach an agreement.

YERGIN: All the oil exporters are staring at the same harsh reality. What's a bad situation will get really much worse as we go into the end of April and the beginning of May because the world will run out of storage for oil, and then prices will really plummet. So there is an incentive to make a deal.

NORTHAM: The OPEC meeting will be followed Friday by a meeting of the G20 oil ministers, which will bring Russia, the Saudis and the U.S. to the same table.

Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.


Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.
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