If you are lucky enough to have grown up in Texas, you are all too familiar with how popular culture, particularly Hollywood, has glamorized the life of a wildcatter or roughneck. The movie Giant depicts James Dean on a windswept Texas countryside, sopping head to toe in newly discovered oil. While maybe a compelling drama, as a Texas Railroad Commissioner, I can tell you this is far from reality.
The reality is the oil and gas industry is like many other segments of the economy: hardworking men and women who depend on their jobs to provide for their families, send their kids to college and make ends meet. While other segments of the economy drive economic growth and opportunity, the oil and gas industry in Texas provides not only incredible job opportunities, but also tremendous revenue to state and local governments and to our school system.
An accountant by trade, my profession, like so many others in West Texas and across this great state, is intrinsically connected to the oil and gas exploration and production business. The recent drop in oil prices, down to almost $45/barrel, has brought this stark reality to the forefront of U.S. energy policy. We see the layoff announcements in the news each day, and at the Railroad Commission, we’ve seen a reduction in new well permit applications.
Incoming Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar recently highlighted another reality: a lower-than-expected budget projection that reflects the softening of commodity prices. This means the state Legislature, now in session, will have less revenue to address critical government functions, such as infrastructure investments and education funding. While the days have long since passed when the Texas Railroad Commission set global oil prices, we have the ability to help address this reality and educate the public on the solution.
If Congress and the Obama administration were to repeal the decades-old prohibition on crude oil exports, studies show that domestic energy production would increase along with GDP, job growth and capital investment, all while reducing our national trade deficit.
The benefits of increased oil production touch all facets of the Texas economy. Our state is stronger today because of shale development, but let’s commit to making that positive effect even stronger for Texans, the nation and the world – because these realities reverberate far beyond the classrooms of schools in Midland or the halls of the capitol in Austin.
Thanks to the shale revolution, we no longer live in an age of energy scarcity. Rather, we are in a new era of energy abundance – an era we must fully embrace if we are to sustain the “Texas Miracle” and lead the way in global energy security. I’ve said this many times, but the reality is that when given the chance, OPEC will do everything in its power to weaken the market and dominate competitors until someone steps in to change the game. That someone can and should be the United States.
The United States has a strong geo-political tool in our energy abundance, and it’s time for the policymakers in Washington, D.C. to demand that we use this opportunity to our strategic advantage when it comes to facing down oppressive and authoritarian regimes like Russia and Venezuela. By doing so, we provide our friends and allies around the world with an alternative source of oil, all while creating jobs and opportunity here at home.
The United States is undeniably a global superpower – except when it comes to energy. It is not because we don’t have the resources – we do. If we as Texans, and ultimately as a nation, are to fully realize the benefits of this domestic energy renaissance – both at home and abroad – it’s time for Washington to end this 1970s-era prohibition so that the United States can finally cement its status as the global energy superpower we know it can be. After all, it’s the hardworking men and women of this country who stand to benefit most.