In advance of tomorrow’s election, energy experts at D CEO’s Oct. 28 “Defining the Future of Oil and Gas” event made it clear which political candidate they felt was best for the industry.
“Clearly we have one candidate that supports us, and one that wants to abolish us,” said Doug Dormer, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Cardinal Midstream. The other panelists echoed his sentiments. “There is one way we would prefer, but we may get the other. And you don’t know how long he will last, so it could get worse,” said Joseph Wm. Foran, CEO and chairman of Dallas-based exploration and and production firm Matador Resources Co.
“There couldn’t be a more stark contrast between energy policies that are being proposed by Vice President Biden and President Trump,” said Bill Keffer, director of the energy law programs at Texas Tech University. “We have had four years of President Trump to know whether he means what he said. I would argue that his first term has been the most oil-and-gas-friendly President in my lifetime.”
The energy policy differences are stark. Biden wants to transition the country’s energy supply away from carbon-based sources like oil, natural gas, and coal because of their contribution to climate change. He wants to end new fracking on federal land, end new permitting for drilling on federal land, and spend $2 trillion on transitioning the country toward renewable energy. He wants the country to achieve net zero greenhouse gases by 2050 and make the country’s electricity grid rely entirely on clean energy.
Trump would continue the moves he has made toward opening up access and expanding production, which has made the country the largest oil-producing country in the world and Texas the largest oil-producing state in the nation. He would continue to build the infrastructure and pipelines that allow oil and gas companies to bring their product to market.
Many of the oil and gas leaders at The Petroleum Club event were critical of the impact Biden’s changes would do to the industry, the economy, and the tax base in places like Texas. The industry was declared an essential business during the pandemic, but it may also be essential to the local economy. “We serve everybody,” said M. Jay Allison, chairman and CEO of Comstock Resources, an acquisition, production, and exploration company. “[Industry workers] are good men and women, and we need to continue to let them do that.”
While the discussion acknowledged the importance of reducing the negative impacts of carbon on the atmosphere, panelists lauded the achievements in reducing greenhouse gases while increasing production. In 2017, the United States withdrew from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation, but despite not being part of the international agreement, the U.S. is creating fewer greenhouse gases that it was four years ago. “We are accomplishing those objectives way beyond and more successfully than any other country that claims we ought to be a partner with them,” Keffer sayid. “We are already accomplishing it, but doing it without the heavy hand of regulation and the without the heavy hand of trying to eliminate the oil and gas industry.”
Other speakers were a bit more stoic about the election. “Either way, we are prepared for it,” said John Paul Merritt, CEO of Pony Oil. “It could go status quo. If it goes Democrat, we are going to see more destabilization in the market. When that happens on a land side, that’s when opportunity comes. As tough as this is for us, this is the opportunity to become the like the guys I am on the stage with.”
Dormer, too, was mentally hedging. “It is as never as bas as you think it going to be and never as good as you hope,” he said. “I hope that both candidates can agree that carbon capture technology and future development should be a high priority.”
Foran closed the event with a reflection on the country’s business-friendly climate and the hope that it would continue. “When I started, it was out of windowless office,” he said. “We were playing handball at the Y, and we walked off the court. There were three guys with me, they said, ‘What are you gonna do?’ I said, ‘I’m thinking about starting a company.’ Where else in the world can four guys walking off a handball court start a company that ends up on the New York Stock Exchange?”