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Trump floats funding for oil after historic market loss

President Trump on Tuesday floated providing funds for the oil and gas industry after oil saw its largest market drop in history the day prior, with prices sliding to as low as negative $40 per barrel.

“We will never let the great U.S. Oil & Gas Industry down,” Trump tweeted. “I have instructed the Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Treasury to formulate a plan which will make funds available so that these very important companies and jobs will be secured long into the future.”

The president did not provide additional details after his tweet. The White House declined comment, and the Energy and Treasury departments did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for additional information.

Oil prices settled at negative $37.63 on Monday and opened at negative $14 on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette had a phone call with several House Republicans on the price drop and possible relief that could be provided to oil and gas producers.

“From working with our oil producing allies in North America, to filling up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and to ensuring that oil and gas producers have access to the Fed lending facilities created in the CARES Act, the Secretary reaffirmed that all options remain on the table and that President Trump is committed to solving this problem,” said a statement from a spokeswoman for Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who led the lawmakers on the call.

An Energy and Commerce Committee spokesperson also told The Hill that while on the call, Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) brought up “working with Mexico and Canada on a North American approach to an energy strategy” and that Brouillette agreed that it was important to work with these countries.  

At a press conference on Monday following the price drop, the president did not suggest funding the industries directly but instead doubled down on his desire to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

His administration has said it would rent space in the reserve to producers — something they’d be paid for in oil — after Congress declined to provide funding for the government to purchase oil in a coronavirus stimulus package.

Even before Monday’s developments, the industry had been facing a downturn amid a drop in demand due to the coronavirus and a production standoff between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Both of those countries, as well as the U.S. and others, have since said they would cut their oil production.

It was also reported last week that the Trump administration was considering paying companies to leave oil and gas in the ground.

Some lawmakers have also pushed for oil and gas companies to be eligible for federal loans included in a past stimulus package.

“There is no question that one of the hardest hit industries — and one of the most critical to Alaska — is the oil and gas sector,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier this month.

Updated at 2:01 p.m. 

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus relief Donald Trump energy sector Greg Walden Lisa Murkowski Oil and gas industry Steve Scalise Steven Mnuchin

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