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Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Trump Sanctions Have Blocked More Oil Than OPEC Tried to Cut

Trump Sanctions Have Blocked More Oil Than OPEC Tried to Cut

  • U.S.’s tighter Iran penalties come on top of Venezuela embargo
  • OPEC and allies have pledged to cut 1.2 million barrels a day
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Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Donald Trump often assails OPEC for pushing up oil prices with production curbs, but this year the U.S. president has banned more crude supplies than the cartel has pledged to cut.

Last week Trump once again called for an increase in crude output from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which in tandem with partners has committed to remove 1.2 million barrels a day in a bid to shore up prices.

Yet as tougher U.S. measures against Iran take effect this week, coming on top of action against Venezuela, the president’s own attempts to choke off supplies exceed those intended by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Trump Oil Ban > OPEC Cuts

U.S. sanctions on Iran, Venezuela exceed cartel's planned cutbacks

Trump has been pressuring the Islamic Republic since he quit an accord overseeing the nation’s nuclear program a year ago, and the tighter sanctions will expose any country buying Iranian crude to U.S. penalties. That theoretically bans about 1.4 million barrels a day of exports, though analysts say the impact will be less severe as top buyer China may flout the embargo.

The squeeze on Iran follows a ban on U.S. oil imports from Venezuela announced in January, as Trump punishes the regime of Nicolas Maduro for allegedly rigging elections and plundering national resources. American purchases from Venezuela had been running at about 530,000 barrels a day.

Taken together, the block on just over 1.9 million barrels of daily output surpasses the 1.2 million reduction targeted by OPEC. Iran and Venezuela, the two nations in Trump’s crosshairs, are exempt from OPEC’s agreement to reduce output.

In practice, the OPEC nations have deliberately cut more than planned as group leader Saudi Arabia deepened its curbs. Because of this, and the losses in Iran and Venezuela, the group’s overall production has slumped by almost 1.7 million barrels a day this year.

That’s still eclipsed by the impact of Trump’s interventions if the sanctions he imposed on Iran last year are included. Adding those measures, the amount of oil banned by the president swells to about 3 million barrels a day.