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Trump: Free Markets Will Determine U.S. Oil Production

U.S. President Trump believes local oil production output cuts will happen automatically thanks to the nature of the free market, he told reporters this week.

“I think the cuts are automatic if you are a believer in markets,” Trump said at his daily coronavirus press briefing. He also added that the U.S. had not been officially asked to take part in any production cuts. 

“If they ask me, I’ll make a decision,” the U.S. President said.

Trump’s remarks follow a meeting with U.S. oil producers last week, at which some observers believe a production cut was discussed. One Texas railroad commissioner has already suggested that the state cuts some production to weather the effect of the oil price crash. In contrast, oil companies have launched a lobbying campaign with the White House calling for protectionist measures against Saudi Arabia and Russia, including sanctions and import tariffs.

Meanwhile, Russia has signaled that it would only cut if the United States cuts, too. Saudi Arabia is also likely to be unwilling to go it alone this time. What’s more, from a global supply perspective, if the United States does not join the cuts, their effect on prices will be doubtful.

“The U.S. remains the major global producer, still at 13.0 million [barrels per day] as of last week,” one IHS Markit analyst told MarketWatch. The production numbers that the EIA puts out in its weekly petroleum status report are estimates, and production growth may have started to go down as producers idle rigs and cuts spending plans. However, the fact remains that the U.S. is the top oil producer, and if it does not adjust its output, Russia’s and Saudi Arabia’s willingness to curb production will make little sense for prices.

One could argue that Trump’s call on OPEC and Russia to cut production goes counter to his belief in the free market, but it is also true that U.S. producers would be forced to cut output with or without an international agreement if their breakeven prices are higher than the price at which oil is actually trading.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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