North Dakota, With Some of the Highest Oil Tax Rates in the Nation, Is Hardly a “Cheap Date”


Oil pumps

Our left wing friends like to live in a fairy tale land where North Dakota is some noxious petrostate in the thrall of corrupt politicians who have sold out to the Big Oil barons.

Of course, this fairy tale has little to do with reality, which is why Democrats struggle to win elections in North Dakota.

Yet still, this flavor of fabulism is fashionable on the left. Case in point, this recent column by my colleague Mike McFeely who suggests North Dakota is a “cheap date” for the oil industry.

His argument:

Headline No. 1, from Reuters on Nov. 18: “Exclusive: U.S. shale firms offer $100 million to aid Texas, New Mexico.”

Headline No. 2, from the Bismarck Tribune on Nov. 26: “Hess to give more than 8,000 toy trucks and STEM kits to North Dakota schools.”

Conclusion: North Dakota, you are a cheap date. And “date” can mean several things when money is being exchanged.

But, hey, who wouldn’t be excited when a worldwide multi-billion dollar oil company donates toy trucks to your schools. Toy trucks!

McFeely might have a point if he could argue that the toy trucks were the extent of giving the oil industry has done in North Dakota. Unfortunately for his argument, which is built on that flimsy and lazily researched premise, it simply isn’t true.

Hess alone gave $25 million to the Succeed 2020 program which helps prepare North Dakota students for college and careers.

Energy Transfer Partners, the folks behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, gave $5 million earlier this year to the University of Mary to help fund their engineering school.

Harold Hamm and his company Continental Resources gave $10 million to the University of North Dakota for their engineering school, with $5 million of that total coming from Hamm personally.

The North Dakota energy industry contributed nearly $8 million to the remodel of the State Heritage Center in Bismarck, including a $1.8 million donation from Continental Resources specifically.

Targa Badlands gave $250,000 to a hospital project in McKenzie County.

There are other examples of charitable works by energy companies in North Dakota – like this donation of $42,000 worth of tools to Williston State College from Halliburton last year, and the ND Petroleum Council’s annual “Pick up the Patch” events – which are too numerous to mention here.

To suggest that the oil industry is somehow stiffing North Dakota when it comes to charitable giving is ridiculous. Remembering that North Dakota has a much smaller population than other states, and that while our state is the second largest oil producing state in the nation we’re a very distant second behind Texas, the level of giving seems commensurate.

Also, keep in mind that North Dakota is a high tax state for the oil industry. This chart, produced by Region Track, shows the effective oil tax rates for oil producing states. As you’ll note, North Dakota is second highest behind Montana with an effective rate roughly double that of states like Texas and Oklahoma:

These facts get in the way of what, for our liberal friends, is a narrative they accept as an article of faith. Which is that the oil industry is exploitative and corrupt and evil.

Again, that narrative just doesn’t jibe with reality, but as long as de facto Democratic mouthpieces like McFeely keep espousing it the Democratic candidates they support will continue to fail in North Dakota.

UPDATE: This response, from state Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot) seems pertinent as well: