1919 Texas Law Against Oil “Waste”

The Great State of Texas has enacted legislation in 1919 that says in its Article 1:

Natural gas and crude oil or petroleum shall not be produced in the State of  Texas in such manner and under such condition as to constitute waste.

That legislation is titled “An Act to conserve the oil and gas resources of the State of Texas”. You can read it here, courtesy of Hathi Trust.

A century ago, people didn’t understand the threat of global warming, though the science explaining the greenhouse effect was already known.

But still this legislation thought that “conserving the oil and gas resources” was a good idea. And it is. Even if you think global warming is a conspiracy or a hoax, conserving more of the treasure for future generations makes sense.

This legislation ordered producers to guard against gas leaks and prevented using gas flares as nighttime light sources. It charged the Railroad Commission of Texas, which at the time was actually regulating railroad, with enforcing the Act.

And it became the basis for the Commission to issue a first statewide production limit in 1930 of 750,000 barrels a day.

As far as those production limits were enforced, this reduced CO2 emissions. Nobody thought of that at the time, though. It was only a measure to prevent low prices. A barrel sold at 25 cents at the time, which would be about $3.44 adjusted for inflation. That low price was caused by the East Texas oil boom of 1930.

So, again, this is a clear historic precedent that it makes sense for the oil industry to reduce supply and get higher prices, even if you don’t even know about the problems with CO2 emissions.

And regulation that would take a large percentage of all known reserves permanently off the fuel market (leaving the owners free to sell it as raw material for the chemical industry, or even sell it as fuel if for every kg of CO2 emissions one kg of CO2 is removed from the atmosphere) would lead to a windfall profit for the oil industry that might be around $500 trillion worth.

Once they understand that, they’ll join forces with Bill McKibben.