HOUSTON, TEXAS–Texas is expected to out-produce every OPEC nation except Saudi Arabia in 2014, according to leading energy exploration officials with Houston-based ConocoPhillips. The boom could carry Texas’ economy for years to come. The biggest threat to the industry, however, is not related to natural resources–but politics.
The oil and gas industry continues to explode in the Lone Star State, thanks in part to the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin oil fields. In 2009, Texas was producing about 1.1 million barrels of oil. Just five years later the expected output is projected to be 3.4 million barrels by the end of 2014, according to the Dallas Business Journal.
At the Annual Eagle Ford Consortium Annual Conference in San Antonio, ConocoPhillips’ Greg Leveille reportedly said, “What you’re seeing unfold in the Eagle Ford is probably the greatest energy success story of the 21st Century.”
But this “success story” is being threatened by looming government regulations, which could result in higher fuel prices and fewer jobs in Texas.
“‘Is a gas and oil ‘bust’ coming?’ That’s a political question more than a natural resources question,” Josiah Neeley, a Policy Analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation told Breitbart Texas. “Estimates state that there are enough resources under the ground to allow the oil and gas boom to continue and get bigger. The potential danger has to do with regulations that could potentially be instated.”
Neeley mentioned that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is already pushing for greenhouse gas regulations on the industry. The first set of the agency’s proposed restrictions is currently before the Supreme Court, which is expected to make a ruling in June 2014.
“The EPA’s proposed restrictions have real potential to harm the gas and oil industry,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much oil and gas is in the ground–if the government says you can’t get at it, you can’t get at it.”
State and local governments, too, could attempt to add regulations to the industry.
“Right now in the city of Denton, there is a referendum coming up to ban fracking within the city limits,” Neeley said. “It’s not clear if they have the legal authority to do that, but the fact that they’re considering this is an ominous sign. If that referendum were to pass, it would embolden a lot of people within Texas to pass more restrictions.”
Breitbart Texas has been reporting on the recent influx of transplants moving to Texas from America’s most liberal cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. If this incoming population brings liberal ideologies to the Lone Star State, it could pose a threat to the gas and oil industry, as far as local and state restrictions are concerned.
Neeley said, “If Texas had the legislature of California or New York, that would definitely pose a threat to the industry. The state can place all sorts of restrictions on oil and gas development. We’ve seen that before in places like New York. The political environment in Texas is very important. If the voting populous changes, that environment could also change.”
There are signs, however, that the blue state exodus to Texas will not shift the political environment to the left.
Breitbart Texas recently pointed out that most recent Texas transplants appear to be conservatives seeking refuge. A joint study by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune confirmed that “California has been losing people in droves. The plurality of those migrants have moved to Texas, as many as 70,000 in 2011 and 60,000 in 2012.” However, after polling a significant portion of the fresh transplants, the study found that 57 percent of them are self-proclaimed conservatives and only 27 percent are liberal.
Unless more burdensome federal regulations are imposed, the Texas oil and gas industry appears to have a bright future.
The booming industry could bolster Texas’ healthy economy for decades to come. Leveille said, “I turned 55 this year, and I suspect I’ll be in the ground long before the last drop of oil is produced in the Eagle Ford.”
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate