WHITE HOUSE – After oil prices crashed to historic lows Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump declared “this is a great time to buy oil.”
The president largely brushed off the ramifications to domestic energy jobs and the geo-political consequences of the oil price plunge amid the coronavirus pandemic, telling reporters that the “problem is nobody’s driving a car anywhere in the world, essentially.”
The president, looking to add as much as 75 million barrels of oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, said “if we can buy it for nothing, we will take everything we can get.”
Trump also said he is looking at stopping incoming Saudi shipments of oil.
The president termed it “largely a financial squeeze,” when asked about the May futures contract for West Texas Intermediate crude oil trading closing for the day at minus $37.63 per barrel, the first time ever a price for the commodity transitioned into negative numbers.
Those holding the May contracts on Tuesday, amid evaporated demand, would need to arrange for delivery of their barrels of oil.
“It’s going to be picking up, and the energy business is going to be strong,” predicted Trump, noting that other types of crude oil are still trading above $25 per barrel.
Trump and members of the White House coronavirus task force Monday defended the administration’s gradual ramping up of coronavirus testing.
They explained there are ample testing supplies available for all states to proceed to the first stage of reopening their economies that were shut down to prevent the spread of the highly infectious virus.
“We’re going maximum, we’re going to the outer limits,” said Trump of plans to test millions more Americans.
About 4 million people in the country have been tested so far, about 1% of the U.S. population.
Some governors are not convinced of the current domestic capabilities for testing.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, said his state has acquired 500,000 testing kits from South Korea.
“He didn’t need to go to South Korea. He needed to get a little knowledge,” said Trump, saying the governor was not adequately informed of what is available in the country.
“I’m not sure what the president is referring to. I have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on,” Hogan, head of the National Governors’ Association, told CNN following the president’s remarks.
Trump is also rebuffing concern that he was not taking the virus as seriously as he should have as late as last month, when he held a political rally.
Trump pointed to restricting travelers in early February from China, where COVID-19 emerged, although since that action tens of thousands of Americans and other authorized travelers entered the United States from Chinese airports.
“We would have lost millions of people” if he had not taken that action, Trump asserted. “It would have been an atrocity. We’ve done the right thing.”
US has highest death toll
More than 41,000 people in the United States have died of the coronavirus, the most reported by any country.
About 170,000 people globally are confirmed to have died of COVID-19.
The head of the World Health Organization, which avoids politics, issued one of his most direct criticisms yet of the lack of global solidarity since the outbreak of the disease.
“The cracks between people and the cracks between parties is fueling it,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Don’t use this virus as an opportunity to fight against each other or score political points. It’s dangerous. It’s like playing with fire.”
The comment came less than a week after Trump, who has called Tedros’ leadership “China-centric,” announced that the United States will suspend funding to WHO while it reviews the agency’s response to the pandemic.