Russia’s war on Ukraine has made it practically patriotic to pump oil, but the Permian hasn’t ramped up production. Don’t blame Washington. Blame Wall Street.
Someone needs to put the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band on a bus, drive it to Midland, and have it march through the main dining room of the Petroleum Club to wake everybody up. Oil prices have reached heights unseen since 2014. Not only that, but pumping crude has been transformed in the public eye, practically overnight, from a climate scourge to an act of patriotism in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “We have the ability, and frankly an obligation, to support our global allies to help fuel democracy and energy security,” Ed Longanecker, president of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, told me this week.
Yet the Texas oil business slumbers. After President Biden, on Tuesday, announced a ban on importing Russian oil into the U.S., prices topped $123 a barrel, before falling back to $107 as of this morning. And the industry’s response? The number of drilling rigs grinding into the ground in search of hydrocarbons in both West Texas and South Texas has declined by a couple.
This isn’t to say that Texas’s oil output won’t rise in the coming months, especially if the oil and gas crisis unleashed by the war in Ukraine intensifies and the industry’s role as a geopolitical asset grows. We just shouldn’t be surprised by the subdued response. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature of the new energy economy.
For the past few years, the oil industry in Texas has been browbeaten by investors. Wall Street got fed up. No longer did it support piling on debt and outspending cash flow to prioritize double-digit annual increases in production whenever oil prices were high. Investors had learned time and again that an inevitable drop would burn up shareholder value. The new mantras for oil companies are “be sustainable” and “live within your means.” If they make extra money because oil prices are high, give it back to investors. By Russel Gold, Texas Monthly