Gov. Kevin Stitt this week sent a letter to President Donald Trump, urging him to assist Oklahoma’s economy by introducing “tariffs, sanctions, restrictions … or any other action you deem helpful” against Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The two countries have been accused by Stitt and others of “oil dumping,” or saturating the global market in oil in order to harm other countries’ economies.
“These two sovereign nations have knowingly, and for the specific purpose of causing harm to the United States of America, engaged in ‘dumping’ of oil by flooding the market,” Stitt wrote in the letter. “The result has caused an unprecedented crash in the prices and production of Oil & Gas and the corresponding markets.
Stitt penned the letter March 31. On Thursday afternoon Politico reported that the Trump administration was “pressing” the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to “end the standoff in the oil market.”
Oil prices in the United States have cratered as the coronavirus has taken hold worldwide, and perhaps nowhere has the collapse been felt harder than in Oklahoma where much of the state’s budget is dependent on a thriving oil and gas economy. In some places in the state, gas prices have fallen to below a dollar a gallon.
The low oil prices are expected to create a large deficit in Oklahoma’s 2020 budget.
Trump tweeted on Thursday about a proposed deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia to end the mass export of oil that’s soaked the worldwide crude market, and stocks rallied following his tweet.
Just spoke to my friend MBS (Crown Prince) of Saudi Arabia, who spoke with President Putin of Russia, & I expect & hope that they will be cutting back approximately 10 Million Barrels, and maybe substantially more which, if it happens, will be GREAT for the oil & gas industry!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2020
Saudi Arabia responded later, however, dampening Trump’s aspirations, saying they looked forward only to a “meeting of OPEC and other oil producing countries.”
Politico reported that a White House meeting on Friday would include Oklahoman Harold Hamm, a Trump confidant and founder of Continental Resources.
During a video conference on Wednesday hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to address the energy industry, Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Kenneth Wagner mentioned Stitt’s letter to Trump “demanding action against the Saudi Arabian government and the Russian Federation.” Wagner, like Stitt, called it “ illegal activity” and said the countries were oversupplying the market and dumping their product at a price far below the actual fair-market value or actual value for those products.
“Hopefully, that will provide some immediate relief,” Wagner said.
In Stitt’s letter, the Oklahoma governor thanked Trump for his “leadership during this incredible time of hardship during this Pandemic,” and said the president’s “swift action will allow our nation’s economy to rebuild quicker than would have otherwise been possible.
But the letter’s tone quickly became more dire. Stitt said that while every state’s economy had suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma is “continuing to suffer severe economic harm that is the direct result of illegal and malicious acts” from Saudi Arabia and Russia.
“These countries have seized upon a vulnerable public and economy with direct attacks against our U.S. Oil & Gas producers, including many who call Oklahoma home,” Stitt wrote. “These surreptitious actions, and violations of the U.S. laws prohibiting the practice of ‘dumping’ and ‘countervailing,’ warrant a swift and decisive response from our federal government.
“Mr. President, you have the authority to respond in a variety of ways that could bring immediate improvement to the dire situation at hand while preserving the legacy of your policy of Energy Dominance.”