Over the weekend the Dickinson Press ran an editorial headlined, “Slowing down ND oil industry not the right answer.”
I thought it was an excellent counterpoint to some of the talk about slowing down the oil boom in the wake of the Casselton train derailment (and fanned by the winds of politics, given that it’s now an election year), especially coming as it does from a voice in the midst of the Bakken oil boom. So I invited Dustin Monke, the managing editor for the Press, on the radio with me this morning to talk about the issue.
The audio is above (I stupidly didn’t hit record right at the beginning but I got most of his comments).
Monke’s argument makes two solid points.
First, he said we have to remember that slowing down the oil boom means slowing down the revenues from the oil boom. Not just in direct oil taxes, either, but all the commerce around the oil boom that drives sales tax revenue, etc. That, in turn, means less revenue available to build out the infrastructure to meet the burdens presented by the oil boom. The state legislature just budgeted for a 62% increase in spending for the 2013 – 2015 biennium as compared to the 2011 – 2013 biennium. Local governments, like the City of Dickinson, have also charted the course for big outlays based on revenue projects driven by the oil boom.
It would be a major risk to slow things down at a time when the government (for better or worse) is committed to so much more spending. And with a massive chunk of that spending going to infrastructure, it would be counter productive.
Monke’s other point is that the oil boom is already moderating. The private sector and the public sector are starting to catch up. If we’re patient, things will get better.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to be patient when there are so many political points to be scored by being impatient.