The Trump administration, scrambling to respond to the global oil price crash, plans to send a senior energy representative to Saudi Arabia, officials said on Friday, while a regulator from the big oil-producing state of Texas took the rare step of considering oil production cuts.
The administration believes Saudi Arabia's move to flood global oil markets compounds the global economic crash at a time of a crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A senior Energy Department official will be sent to Riyadh for months at least to work closely with State Department officials and the existing energy attache, the senior U.S. officials said, on the condition of anonymity.
Saudi Arabia and Russia are locked in a war for global oil market share after their three-year deal to restrain output collapsed this month. The price war comes during a time of severely reduced global demand due to the spread of the coronavirus, together pushing crude prices to near 20-year lows this week.
The price crash is also devastating to U.S. oil producers, some of which have already begun putting employees on furlough.
One of the three elected members of the Texas oil and gas regulator said on Friday that the state should consider production limits for oil companies in an effort to stabilize crashing prices.
The hope is that President Donald Trump could negotiate with Saudi Arabia and Russia and convince them to match the cut, said Ryan Sitton, of regulator the Texas Railroad Commission.
Sitton said production limits could be implemented quickly, though no one who works at the agency was around the last time the state limited production, in the early 1970s.
“We need to take the time to hear from everybody," he said, adding that he was not yet advocating for the cuts. But “if we can help (Trump) get a deal done, then I think that’s when we do something.
Sitton said in a tweet that he spoke with OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo about an international deal "to ensure economic stability as we recover from" the coronavirus outbreak. Sitton said Barkindo was "kind enough to invite me to the next OPEC meeting in June."
The Trump administration officials said Saudi Arabia has for decades been a steadfast leader of stability in the global oil market and that the energy representative would help the countries support economic growth in a transparent market.
The administration will continue to reduce global oil output with sanctions on what the officials called bad actors in Iran and Venezuela, both of which are OPEC members, and their shipping networks, the officials said.
To the extent that Russia is involved in marketing Venezuelan oil, it will be sanctioned, the officials said. The Trump administration recently imposed sanctions on two units of Russian state oil company Rosneft for dealing in Venezuelan oil.