Election Day Special: Lion’s share of U.S. oil output comes from Trump states

By Kurt Abraham, Editor-in-Chief on 11/6/2018

HOUSTON -- Today, Nov. 6, voters across the United States have gone to the polls to elect a wide assortment of federal, state and local officials. Given the potential for shifts in balances-of-power, much is at stake on a variety of issues and policies, including those affecting oil and gas. No one can predict, with any accuracy and reliability, how many of these races in various states will shake out. And with many of them so tight, and razor-thin polling margins abounding, we all could be in for a very long night, before the results are final.

So, in the meantime, we thought it would be interesting to share a statistical factoid that we ran into recently, while researching U.S. oil production figures for various trends. And the factoid is this: As of August 2018 data, U.S. oil output was averaging 11.346 MMbpd, up 416,000 bpd from the July figure. Within the national total, the states that voted for President Donald Trump represent 85% (9.643 MMbpd) of all U.S. oil production, while those that supported Hillary Clinton account for just 15% (1.703 MMbpd).

Not surprisingly, the Trump states are led by Texas (4.577 MMbopd), the GOM offshore (1.918 MMbopd), North Dakota (1.279 MMbopd), Oklahoma (563,000 bopd) and Alaska (428,000 bopd). The Clinton states are led by New Mexico (724,000 bopd), Colorado (477,000 bopd) and California (461,000 bopd).

A similar trend can be found among states with natural gas production. States that voted for Trump account for 89%, or 24.209 Tcf, of U.S. dry gas output, which totaled 27.291 Tcf during 2017. Leading producer among pro-Trump states was Texas at 6.3 Tcf, followed by Pennsylvania (5.388 Tcf), Oklahoma (2.317 Tcf), Louisiana (2.107 Tcf) and Ohio (1.713 Tcf). The remaining 11%, or 3.082 Tcf, came from states that voted for Ms. Clinton. Contributing the vast majority of this group’s gas output were Colorado (1.556 Tcf) and New Mexico (1.197 Tcf).

Some of the reason may be a coincidence of geology, and some of it is certainly pro- or anti-oil-and-gas policies. On the negative side, California has loads of oil development potential offshore its southern coastline, but state officials, as a whole, have been against further development in state-controlled waters since the landmark Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. They have not authorized any new leases in state waters since then. And federal officials have not bucked the state’s attitude, either. The federal government continued to hold offshore lease sales through 1982. Then the U.S. Congress directed that no federal funds be used to lease additional federal tracts off the coast of California. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush issued an executive moratorium that banned new federal leasing through the year 2000 on many offshore tracts, particularly California. In 1998, President Bill Clinton extended this moratorium through 2012. Yet, while President George W. Bush rescinded the executive order in July 2008, federal officials have shown no appetite for testing public opinion in California.

In Colorado, public sentiment against oil and gas development, particularly when combined with hydraulic fracturing, has grown over the last 10 years, in tandem with the expansion of population into what once were rural areas. So much has the trend grown, that Colorado Proposition 112, the Minimum Distance Requirements for New Oil, Gas, and Fracking Projects Initiative, garnered enough signatures to make today’s ballot as an initiated state statute. If it passes, Proposition 112 would mandate that new oil and gas development projects, including fracing, be a minimum distance of 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other areas designated as vulnerable. Opponents of the measure, including many industry companies and associations, believe that the proposition would eliminate the vast bulk of privately owned land still available, at the moment, in Colorado. The result, according to leading anti-112 group Protect Colorado, would be to “devastate our economy, wipe out thousands of jobs, and endanger our environment. [It] would threaten private property rights and could even cost Colorado residents hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits.”

New York, another state that supported Ms. Clinton, does not have any oil-or-gas-related initiative on the ballot today, but officials there have nearly killed off the local industry. Current Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration announced a fracing ban in December 2014 that continues to this day. And the result is that New York is not exploiting its own shale gas potential, in start contrast to the success enjoyed by neighboring Pennsylvania. In addition, so great is Cuomo’s hate for fracing, that he will not allow spur pipelines to be built from Pennsylvania into New York, because they would carry natural gas supplies produced from fields developed with fracing. Thus, New York’s electricity rates are 44% higher than the national average, due to lack of sufficient, inexpensive gas to fuel generation.

New Mexico is a relatively poor state, economically, that voted for Ms. Clinton, but which is exploiting its oil and gas potential, particularly in the Permian basin. Yet, that hasn’t stopped State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn from mucking up a good thing by getting into a water rights dispute with Texas. That dispute is eventually headed to the U.S. Supreme Court for potential, final resolution. And in even in Texas, the greatest pro-oil-and-gas state in the U.S., there are those who are not particularly supportive of the industry, exemplified by Democratic Senate candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke. He supported an idea floated by former President Barack Obama in 2016 to impose a $10/bbl tax on domestic oil production. The tax would have been paid by operators, and it would have funded unspecified infrastructure development/construction across the country.

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