Rare exposure

The Economist magazine, arguably the most influential weekly international publication, has devoted a full page of sprightly written and carefully researched information about Oklahoma.

One story reviews the state’s dwindling oil industry and growing prospects in natural gas.

A second item glorifies Oklahoma City’s rejuvenated downtown area quoting Mayor Mick Cornett who happens to be in a heated Republican run-off race with Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin for the area’s congressional seat.

Succulently but colorfully, The Economist’s August 4 edition reviews the state’s petroleum history since the 1901 oil discovery at Red Fork (”that turned cowboys into millionaires”).

It takes a look into the future of the state’s fossil fuels prospects dwindling in crude oil but glowing in natural gas. It notes that 278 million barrels of crude oil were produced in 1927 compared with 60.7 million barrels last year, the lowest since 1912.

Natural gas, meanwhile, “has proved a steadier bet.” While 47,000 oil wells were plugged during 1971-2001, only 11,000 gas wells “suffered the same fate. It said since 1950, $117 billion of Oklahoma gas was extracted compared with $87 billion in oil.

It notes that 60,000 are still employed in oil extraction “another 180,000 employed indirectly by the oil and gas industry.”

Not forgetting the 1980s bust, the article said “overnight, oilmen with mansions and private air strips became paupers living in mobile homes”

Today, it notes, “Oklahoma oilfields are considered mature in any case...sinking a well can cost over $1 million.”

The magazine touts the University of Oklahoma for offering the world’s only masters degree in natural gas extraction and management.

It points to hopes for a new $2.1 billion pipeline proposed from Canada may feed petroleum refineries at Ponca City and Cushing, “The Pipeline Crossroads of the World.”

The two articles, products of fine journalistic reporting and beneficiaries of keen writing, undoubtedly are being reviewed by the most influential decision makers in the world. While the items were published as newsworthy stories they delivered extraordinary and free image building and public relations miracles for Oklahoma.

State policy makers perhaps should read The Economists’ articles instead of listening to lobbyists.

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