Tuesday, April 21, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He promised to bail out the wealthiest industry in human history.

For some time now, a price war involving Saudi Arabia and Russia has been forcing more oil onto the market than anyone can use, especially with the world economy paralyzed by the coronavirus outbreak. Yesterday, the price of certain oil futures contracts actually dropped below zero, meaning that suppliers were effectively paying buyers to take crude oil (which is expensive to store) off their hands. 

Trump is financially entangled with both the Saudi Arabian and Russian ruling regimes. Eight days ago, he took credit for brokering a deal between the two:

Having been involved in the negotiations, to put it mildly, the number that OPEC+ is looking to cut is 20 Million Barrels a day, not the 10 Million that is generally being reported. If anything near this happens, and the World gets back to business from the Covid 19.........disaster, the Energy Industry will be strong again, far faster than currently anticipated. Thank you to all of those who worked with me on getting this very big business back on track, in particular Russia and Saudi Arabia.

"To put it mildly," Trump seems to have overestimated his persuasiveness.

Today, Trump tweeted again, this time promising to save the American oil and gas industry from his last attempt to save the American oil and gas industry. This will, apparently, take two forms. The first is a special round of loans and taxpayer cash infusions, on top of other pandemic stimulus packages, to petroleum companies. This would also be on top of favorable tax laws that mean energy companies often get annual cash payouts from the Treasury, instead of paying taxes.

Trump's other plan to shore up the energy sector is to buy oil and put it in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. There are two issues with this plan. First, he'd already said he was doing this back in March. And second, the reserve can't hold very much oil. Trump bragged today about "getting it for the right price," but low oil prices are exactly why the industry is hurting in the first place.

Why does this matter?

  • It's wrong to take credit for things you haven't done.
  • Presidents don't need to be economists, but they do need to be able to understand simple economic concepts.