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Trump considering crude oil import limits for US refiners: sources

Highlights

North Dakota senator discussed plan with Trump Monday

Proposal aimed at stopping light crude imports

Trump considering multiple options: sources

Washington — President Donald Trump is considering a plan which would significantly limit US refineries from importing foreign crude and instead process Bakken, Permian and other domestic crudes, sources said Tuesday.

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US Senator Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, pitched the idea to Trump during a roughly 40 minute phone call Monday.

"It just doesn't seem rational to accept Saudi oil while they're declaring a price war," Cramer said in an interview Tuesday with S&P Global Platts.

Sources familiar with discussions within the White House said Tuesday that the import prohibitions were among the options Trump is considering to blunt the impact of the ongoing price collapse on the domestic oil and gas industry. A White House spokesman declined to comment on the record Tuesday.

Cramer said the new import prohibitions could be enacted by Trump under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which Trump used in 2019 to impose tariffs on Mexican exports after declaring illegal immigration a national emergency.

The proposal would include some exceptions, particularly for US refineries built to run crude grades unavailable in the US, Cramer said.

"If you're set up for heavy sour crude from the tar sands of Alberta or Venezuela, that's one thing, but if you're taking varying degrees of light sweet crude, whether it's the Bakken or Texas or Saudi Arabia, you should have an America first policy, given this time when economic patriotism seems pretty important," Cramer said.

While US crude imports have declined steadily as US oil output has increased, US refiners still imported about 6.76 million b/d of foreign crude in 2019, including about 717,150 b/d of light crudes, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

"If push comes to shove we don't need OPEC or anybody else for our own domestic use," Cramer said. "I don't think we lose a lot by considering a more protectionist oil policy now that we produce enough for our country's use for sure."

Cramer said the import prohibitions would be set "to the degree practicable."

Cramer's phone call with Trump on Monday followed a call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in which the two leaders "agreed on the importance of stability in global energy markets," according to a White House readout of the call.

MILITARY SUPPORT

Cramer, who has requested that the US Commerce Department initiate an anti-dumping investigation of Saudi Arabia and Russia for its plan to ramp up production during a price collapse has also introduced a bill with Senator Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, to remove US troops from Saudi Arabia.

"Why are we protecting their oil assets while they're declaring war on ours?" Cramer asked. "I think they've already gone too far to deserve our protection. We've protected their oil assets, their pipelines, their ships ... and I just don't know why we would continue to do that."