Energy & Environment

Weekly Oil & Gas Update: Natural Gas Demand And Production Expected To Decline This Year

Plus: oil and gas companies are among the corporations rethinking political contributions, amid increased calls from investors and the public for businesses to cut off donations to lawmakers who voted to challenge Biden’s victory.

A pump jack operates in an oil field, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Midland, Texas.

Even though economic activity is expected to pick back as the coronavirus vaccine becomes available to the public, the Energy Information Agency predicts natural gas demand and production will be in decline through 2022.

The most recent short-term outlook from the agency says in 2020 natural gas consumption was down 2.5% from the previous year. The EIA expects consumption to fall by 2.8% this year, and 2.1% in 2022.

"The largest natural gas-consuming sector in the United States is the electric power sector," the Outlook report reads, noting that the EIA estimates the power sector will consume 11% less natural gas this year than in 2020. "EIA forecasts that higher prices for natural gas (compared with coal prices) for power generation and rising electricity generation capacity from renewable energy in 2021 will likely cause power sector natural gas consumption to decline in 2021."

Meanwhile, the price of Texas oil is above $50 per barrel for the second week. After trading at or below $40 for much of 2020, this week West Texas crude was trading just above $53 a barrel.

Also this week, we're learning more about how energy companies are responding to last week's deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were certifying the Electoral College votes for president-elect Joe Biden.

Many Houston-based oil and gas companies are among the corporations rethinking political contributions. There have been increased calls from investors and the public for businesses to cut off donations to lawmakers who voted to challenge Biden's victory, some of which are from Texas, like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Companies like ConocoPhillips and BP — the latter of which has its U.S. headquarters in Houston — say they're putting a pause on political contributions for at least six months. Other companies, like Occidental, halted contributions indefinitely.

Overall, oil and gas companies tend to support policies put forth by Republicans — especially with regard to trade and environmental regulations — and therefore donate more to the GOP than to Democrats. Reuters reports the industry contributed $87 million dollars total in the last election cycle.

And this week, a new report shows that the oilfield services sector in Texas has added thousands of jobs in the last few months. The sector was among the hardest hit last year as oil prices hit historic lows and at times drilling came to a near standstill.

The most recent report from the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association shows that nationwide oilfield services added almost 4,600 jobs in December, and over the last four months has added about 15,000 U.S. jobs.

But although Texas has seen some recent gains, the state has still lost 55,000 oilfield services jobs since the start of the pandemic — more than any other state.

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Kyra Buckley

Kyra Buckley

Energy Reporter

Kyra Buckley is an Energy Reporter with Houston Public Media. Before joining the News 88.7 team she was the Morning Edition Host and a reporter at KUNC in Northern Colorado. She started in public radio in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon where she hosted Weekend Edition and reported for KLCC....

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