Hager and Hamm among oil leaders who met with President Trump

(Harold Hamm with back to camera)

Oklahoma oil leaders Harold Hamm and Dave Hager sat listening to President Trump on Friday during their meeting with him at the White House and were reported to be among those who asked for access to government programs to help the ailing oil and gas industry.

Hamm, founder of Continental Resources Inc. and Hager, President and CEO of Devon Energy were among the nation’s oil and gas executives who had been invited to the meeting. And what was the President’s response for their request for help?

“Very receptive,” according to American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers who was also at the meeting. But the PResident did not discuss government-mandated oil production cuts.

“We are operating in a market economy, not one with state-owned oil companies,” Sommers said in an interview following the meeting with Trump and the CEOs.

Trump vowed to support the U.S. oil industry with measures that include filling the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to ease the glut as storage tanks in distribution hubs are almost filled to the brim.

“We’ll get our energy back,” he said during a portion of Friday’s meeting that was open to reporters. “I’m with you 1,000%. It’s a great business, it’s a very vital business and honestly, you’ve been very fair. You’ve kept energy prices reasonable for a long period of time.”

President Trump walked out of the meeting without any public indication of a plan to curtail domestic output, explaining it’s a free market and up to Saudi Arabia and Russia to bring an end to the price war.

The executives didn’t ask for a bailout, according to Trump. They did discuss tariffs on foreign oil, which “are a way of evening the score,” he said. “Am I thinking about imposing it as of this moment? No, but if we are not treated fairly, its certainly a tool in the toolbox.”

The president said that tariffs on oil imports could be imposed, though he’s not planning to do that at the moment.

“It’s a free market. We’ll figure it out,” he told reporters in Washington after the gathering with the major producers. “Ultimately the marketplace will take care of it.”

While both Saudi Arabia and Russia have expressed openness to coordinated production cuts — and Trump said a deal between the two nations will come soon — it’s unclear that can be achieved without the U.S. and other nations also taking part. Asked whether America would join in, Trump was evasive.

So now all eyes turn to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which is convening on Monday in a virtual meeting with members, allies and guests including the oil-rich Canadian province of Alberta, in a bid to address crude’s meltdown.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country is prepared to take part in deep cuts in oil production together with Saudi Arabia and other major producers.

Left to its own devices, though, the market is poised to collapse further as the Covid-19 crisis could slash global crude demand by almost a third. Hundreds of thousands of industry jobs are hanging in the balance, with about $15 billion of investments wiped out from the budgets of shale explorers and many of them on the brink of bankruptcy. Oil producer Whiting Petroleum Corp. and service provider Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc. filed for bankruptcy this week.

Restricting imports with a tariff, an idea championed by Oklahoma oil tycoon Harold Hamm, a Trump confidant, is one of the most contentious matters, with refiners and Northeast U.S. gas producers firmly opposed.

Prior to the gathering Trump had indicated he already has a plan in mind for helping oil companies he says are being “ravaged” by a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. He said he knows what to do to solve the problem, though he declined to reveal the strategy other than to say it’s “tough” and “I’d rather not do that.”

Sommers, with the API later issued a statement about the meeting.


“We are encouraged by the President’s strong diplomacy with Saudi Arabia and Russia, and we are optimistic further progress will be made in the days ahead. No one wins in a price war, and the Saudis and the Russians aren’t benefiting from their decisions. We also urged the administration to avoid U.S. policies that could do more harm than good for American producers.

“Although further challenges remain, the current energy market disruptions are driven by historic drops in demand, and as with other industries, the best way for ours to recover is to reinforce federal efforts to defeat this virus and enable demand stabilization.”