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Better days ahead for oil industry, Barton says

🕐 3 min read

When it comes to U.S. oil production, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, overflows with optimism.

“Over time, we’re going to kick their butt because they can’t go back up and we can,” said Barton, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, referring to overseas nations’ oil production at a March 29 Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

The longtime proponent of U.S. oil exporting shared an upbeat outlook following last year’s lifting of the oil embargo that he helped push through. His forecast seemed to please those gathered for the Petroleum Club luncheon, many of whom drill for the black stuff whose price has risen and fallen in recent months.

That’s not going to change, said Barton, whose Congressional District 6 includes part of Fort Worth, though the price per barrel likely will rise before it falls.

“While oil prices are down now, they’re not going to stay down nor will they go back to $100 a barrel,” said Barton, predicting the price to level off at $30 or $40 later this year.

That’s in line with the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s recent prediction that Brent crude prices will average about $40 per barrel this year and $50 per barrel in 2017.

Recent months have seen oil prices rise to $110 per barrel and fall to below $27 per barrel, causing many energy giants to downsize and reduce or stop drilling altogether in response to an oil surplus. But things are improving, Barton said.

“The U.S. private sector is now in the driver’s seat, not just in the oil economy, but for the world economy,” said Barton, taking credit for what he called the death of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

“We have killed OPEC … and devastated the Russian oil industry,” said Barton, who led the charge in pushing legislation to lift the nation’s oil export ban. With U.S. producers able to export crude oil, OPEC’s days of setting the price of crude oil appear at an end, he said.

Russia and Saudi Arabia produce about 10 million barrels a day, with U.S. output at about 9.3 million barrels per day. With the nation’s technology and resources, Barton said the U.S. can produce as much as 20 million barrels of oil a day.

“Our oil is the best. It is lighter and it’s sweeter (i.e.: containing less sulfur) so you barely have to refine it,” Barton said.

Technology has affirmed the nation’s industry dominance as hydraulic fracturing reaches oil and natural gas deposits previously out of reach, Barton said.

In the meantime, Barton dismissed a recent U.S. Geological Survey report pointing to wastewater disposal, a byproduct of oil and natural gas drilling, as a possible cause of recent Texas earthquake activity. He shared his view in a question-and-answer session that concluded the luncheon.

“The USGS is wrong. All you’re doing is putting sand … into the formation and pressurizing it primarily with water, and that pressurization opens the formation up and lets oil and gas come out. It’s not endangering you,” said Barton, continuing to assure guests at the luncheon that their industry can expect improvements.

“Better days are ahead, and lots of folks in this room are going to benefit,” Barton said.

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