The national media has seemingly examined this mid-term General Election ad nauseum. Some say it is a referendum on President Obama while others believe that it was simply a matter of the turnout being limited to old white guys. Hey, I resemble that remark, since I just turned 59!
Whatever the reasoning for more “reds” than “blue,” the elections on specific issues and issue-oriented candidacy seem more difficult to grasp when one puts aside the Republican congressional majority and my entire state of Texas once again electing GOP candidates. Oil and gas did not fare particularly well, for instance.
Voters in the San Francisco Bay-area city of Richmond rejected the council candidates on which oil giant Chevron spent millions to elect. Mayoral hopeful Tom Butts whipped Chevron candidate Nat Bates by a 16-percent margin. Chevron, the city’s largest employer, is facing a lawsuit filed by Richmond over a 2012 fire — one of three in recent years — that sent about 15,000 people to local hospitals for treatment. Chevron had sought candidates who would push for a favorable outcome for the oil and gas company. The company, through PACs spent millions on billboards and mailers for Tuesday’s elections. This led one professor to tell NPR that a favorable outcome should not be expected throwing money at a “no” election.
The issue of hydraulic fracturing — at least within the city limit of Denton, Texas — was also nixed. Here, some 58.6 percent of voters in this North Central Texas north of Fort Worth chose to keep so-called “fracking” out of the city. The oil and gas industry outspent opponents by more than a half-million dollars. The city, a college town that is home to the University of North Texas, sits within the 5,000-square-mile Barnett Shale, one of the nation’s largest natural gas fields.
This election in Denton is not the last word, at least when it comes to the powerful oil and gas industry in Texas. The state’s largest petroleum-related lobby and the Texas General Land Office — headed by Republican stalwart Jerry Patterson — have filed lawsuits against the city of Denton over the election results.
Republican State Rep. Phil King of Weatherford says he also plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit such bans as the one voters enacted in Denton.
Perhaps those oil and gas interests who found themselves beat in Richmond and Denton are just a single part of the Red State folks who were not as lucky as the candidates winning Tuesday evening. Outgoing Land Commissioner Patterson, himself defeated in the Republican primary as a lieutenant governor candidate, will turn his office over to a young Hispanic fellow named George P. Bush. This Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and is grandson of President George H.W. Bush and nephew of President George W. Bush. Figure out what all that means. Or maybe, one should read it and weep.
Although one might get the idea that this writer is anti-oil and gas, such an assertion would prove wrong. I own minerals that I would love someone to drill or, even to just lease. The latter usually brings me more money than the former since I do not own vast minerals. I don’t agree large petrochemical companies such as Chevron who perhaps derives more income from overseas interests, should push around cities with their money. If they have that much freaking money, send some of it my way.
As for fracturing, there is the distinct possibility that it is causing earth tremors, particularly in areas of East Texas. That cannot be good. Neither is it good some of the unknown about what fracturing can do to underground resources such as our water. The industry needs to give a s**t first about quality of life instead of the immediate petro dollars it will receive from buyers around the world.
Perhaps I am preaching to the choir. But the distinction is that this choir members makes a little, very, very little, off oil and gas. And though my opinion means nothing to those operators who drill in my tiny mineral interests, my voice along with those in Richmond and Denton can mean a lot when we get together. It is something the oil and gas industry needs to think about. Although that is probably just a pipe dream. When industries spend millions to influence a local election outcome, that spells greed and associated with it is tank trucks full of arrogance.