by James Fenton
“FARMINGTON – A group of oil and gas executives and energy policy experts from the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico’s piece of the Permian Basin are pushing a plan to restrict seafaring imports of foreign oil from coming into the U.S. in order to stabilize the oil and gas industry and bring back lost oilfield jobs.
The group’s plan, which would exempt crude oil imported from Mexico and Canada, is an effort to push back against the price wars the group said are being waged by OPEC, or the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, led by Saudi Arabia.
Members met at the School of Energy at San Juan College Tuesday to promote the “Panhandle Import Reduction Initiative,” which they say could be implemented in multiple phases within 90 days of the next administration, with the ultimate goal of reducing heavy crude oil imports to about 10 percent of demand.
Launched in November, the initiative aims to cut foreign oil imports enough to activate more domestic drilling rigs and boost domestic production to meet current demand levels within four years.
Former state legislator and Four Corners Economic Development Chief Operating Officer Tom Taylor said the drop in natural gas prices eight years ago and the fall of crude oil in 2014, has delivered prolonged pain to the regional economy.
“We find ourselves … in a situation now where we’re down about 6,000 jobs, most of those in the oil and gas industry,” Taylor said of the San Juan Basin. “We have about 11,000 people who have left (San Juan County) … So while we’re down 6,000 jobs and down 11,000 people, we’ve built seven fast-food restaurants, three more under construction, and two big box stores. It’s a different world out there.
“But the fact of the matter is that the economic base of the community is in trouble. And not only is the community in trouble, but the state of New Mexico is in trouble, and not only is New Mexico in trouble but our nation and its security. It’s all tied together. It’s a very difficult situation we find ourselves in when we have one country that can control oil prices. It goes beyond free trade. It’s a problem we need a solution to. We are at the dependence of foreign oil.”
Taylor said about a third of New Mexico’s general fund comes from the oil and gas industry in the form of taxes and fees.”