It is unusual for the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia to see eye-to-eye, much less try to achieve common energy policy goals, even indirectly.
But that is what seems to be happening, and it is taking the edge off the yearlong rise in oil and gasoline prices. Even if those countries have their own reasons for welcoming the surge in production, it is also reducing the influence of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which will meet in Vienna next week to discuss production cuts put in place in early 2017.
The cheerleader, if not the ringmaster, in this effort is President Trump, who took to Twitter on Wednesday to criticize OPEC for high crude prices. “Oil prices are too high, OPEC is at it again,” he wrote in his second such statement since April. “Not good.”
Whatever happens at the OPEC meeting, two of the biggest players in the global oil market — Saudi Arabia and Russia — appear to have already calculated that it is in their immediate interest to crank up production, effectively sidelining the Saudis’ fellow cartel members.
Between them, the two countries have already each added more than 100,000 barrels a day to global oil supplies. Mr. Trump wants even more crude sloshing around the market to tamp down energy prices ahead of the congressional elections in November, and it looks like he may well get it.
It is perfectly normal for Republican and Democratic administrations to try to nudge oil prices down, but rarely — if ever — has the effort been so blunt and public. For decades, whenever presidents faced rising gasoline prices, American officials privately called Saudi Arabia seeking help in getting OPEC to boost production — something that the Trump administration has done, as well.
But Mr. Trump appears unsatisfied with limiting his overtures to private diplomacy. He is publicly targeting OPEC even though oil prices have stabilized since his criticism in April, and regular gasoline prices have slid by roughly a nickel a gallon since Memorial Day. A barrel of oil in the United States now costs about $67 a barrel, down nearly $4 over the past month, although that is still about 45 percent higher than at this time last year.
Saudi oil officials have agreed to boost production publicly, in coordination with Russian officials who would like to export more oil to bolster the country’s economy. That may well upset Iran, Venezuela and other OPEC members that want higher oil prices, making the coming meeting a contentious one.
Read the full article by Clifford Krauss on The New York Times, June 14, 2018.