As oil and gas exports surge, West Texas residents stuck with the consequences
Texas – October 11, 2018
In late 2015, Congress cut a deal to lift 40-year-old restrictions on the export of crude oil. That opened the floodgates. The U.S. sold 230 million more barrels of crude to other countries in the first half of this year than it did in the previous three years—a surge made possible by a virtually identical spike in Permian production.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and others say the drilling spree is ushering in a new era of American energy independence, but American demand isn’t driving it. Foreign demand is.
The U.S. just surpassed Russia as the world’s top oil producer. The International Energy Agency predicts that American oil—most of it from the Permian—will account for 80% of the growth in global supply over the next seven years. That’s bringing big profits to oil companies as well as lung-searing pollution to places where drilling has skyrocketed, while threatening to exacerbate climate change.
Hydraulic fracturing—better known as fracking—made this boom technologically possible, but many experts express serious concerns about its environmental and health impacts. In recent years, a massive study was conducted on the wastewater from fracking, and preliminary results said no contamination had occurred. However, there have been claims of contamination in previous years and many other related concerns about the entire process dealing with wastewater.
Nevertheless, the economic benefits from exports are the reason there’s so much new drilling. U.S. refineries built for heavier varieties of oil than the Permian produces can’t handle the enormous new quantities of Texas light crude. Instead, companies are shipping it abroad and finding lucrative new markets. American crude is now sold to countries from South Korea and India to Italy and Colombia. Even the oil-rich United Arab Emirates buys some.
But the U.S. is still importing oil. The country will keep buying oil from other parts of the world indefinitely even as it sells more abroad, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts.
This situation does not look healthy at least for Texas residents. In this scheme of things, West Texas becomes an extraction colony for the fuel resources for the rest of the world.
“The bitter, cynical way to look at this is, West Texas becomes an extraction colony for the fuel resources for the rest of the world,” said Coyne Gibson, a volunteer with the Big Bend Conservation Alliance who once worked in the oil and gas industry. “Everybody’s going to go hog wild and suck the region dry of everything they can without thinking of the long-term, big picture.”
All revenues from the sale of oil are received by oil companies, and residents with no say in these decisions are stuck with the consequences. It is not just about the negative consequences for the ecology of the entire region, but also about the social problems that many cities have already faced because of the influx of young men due to the oil boom.
RT premiered of the documentary Sex and the Oil City on October 10, which shows how Williston turned from a North Dakota small-town into the capital of the oil boom of North Dakota. Men there are able to earn a lot of money quickly, but it became a nightmare for many women who dare to come to Williston.
Texas regulators, long criticized for being too industry-friendly, seem wholly unprepared for what’s happening. Booms, predictably, bring air pollution, oil spills, groundwater loss and contamination. But the state isn’t tracking or policing these problems aggressively. For example, the Texas portion of the Permian—roughly the size of Georgia—has only a few air pollution monitoring stations, leaving residents largely in the dark about what’s in the air they breathe.
Of course, the economic benefits are an attractive aspect of fracking, but the controversy asks, at what cost? With risk of contaminated water sources, earthquakes that could be destructive and other unknown factors, is it worth the risk? The issue is a very divisive one and one that is not likely to have a happy resolution in the near future.Начало формы