Crude oil futures shrink below zero for first time in history

Rhett Morgan | Tulsa World

The months-long free fall of crude oil could have far-reaching ramifications for Oklahoma, a local energy executive said.

On Monday afternoon, May futures for a barrel of American benchmark West Texas Intermediate tumbled below zero dollars.

At the start of the year, a barrel of WTI cost about $60.

“Unless we get beyond that very quickly, it will have a very permanent effect upon our national economy,” said Dewey Bartlett, chairman of the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance. “We’re at a fairly fast pace approaching that point in time where it’s too late.”

Monday’s nosedive in crude was exacerbated by a May futures contract that expires Tuesday, resulting in a sell-off among traders without access to storage during the oversupplied market crippled by the coronavirus crisis.

WTI crude for May delivery dipped below negative-$40 per barrel on Monday, meaning that sellers of the commodity were paying people to take it. WTI for June delivery remained in positive territory, holding above $21 a barrel.

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