|McALLEN, August 15 - History has taught us that nothing transforms a society or improves the quality of life more than man’s ability to effectively and efficiently harness and develop previously untapped sources of energy.
The discovery of fire took us out of the stone-age, hydro-power, combustion, and coal power birthed the Industrial Revolution, our discovery and development of fossil fuels such as oil and gas catapulted us to the modern and technological age we are in today.
Just last week, Mexico cleared its final legislative hurdle ending 76 years of state monopoly and approved rules outlining the framework under which foreign companies will invest and drill for oil and natural gas in Mexico. The recent expansion of oil and gas production in Northern Mexico is expected to top $1 trillion in investment over ten years and create over 2.5 million new jobs by 2025 creating a new energy paradigm for North America. By combining the United States, Canada, and Mexico, oil and gas production in North America will be bigger than OPEC.
A new energy renaissance is coming to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. No region stands to gain more from Mexico’s energy reforms than South Texas. With the Eagle Ford Shale to the north and the Burgos Basin, also known as the Eagle Ford Shale south of the border, the Rio Grande Valley is at the epicenter of this energy revolution happening in Texas and Mexico.
We have already seen how the Eagle Ford Shale has begun to transform South Texas and the Coastal Bend regions. We are seeing tens of thousands of new jobs created, higher wages being paid, billions of dollars in investments in the region and increased traffic and expansion at Port Corpus Christi due to the Eagle Ford Shale boom. In 2013 alone, Texas produced over $110 billion worth of oil and gas. If Texas were its own nation, it would be the 7th largest oil and gas producer in the world. The indirect growth and benefits are also visible. Every time I drive down U.S. 281 and Highway 35 in South Texas, I notice new hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, and pipeline and welding companies, just to name a few.
The creation of wealth and prosperity are on full display. Families have more money at the end of the month. Entrepreneurs are finding success with new start-up businesses. County coffers are filling up. The Rainy Day Fund is bringing in more money from increased oil and gas activity allowing us to invest more in our state infrastructure.
Now imagine the full picture. If this is what we are seeing from just the Eagle Ford Shale to the north, imagine the growth and prosperity we will see when development is in full swing south of the border. All across the state, country, and the world, people are taking note of this energy revolution in South Texas.
On August 6th, Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst charged the Senate Natural Resources Committee to “examine the impact on Texas' economy and businesses of the recent expansion of oil and gas production in Northern Mexico. Assess opportunities for economic growth in Texas and collaboration between Texas businesses and Mexico resulting from Mexico's energy reform, including Mexico's efforts to recover shale gas from the Eagle Ford Shale.”
In a letter sent to the Members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, Chairman Troy Fraser recognized “Texas producers are particularly well suited to take advantage of the change that will come with energy reform in Mexico, and Texas communities and business may well benefit from cross-border development of the Eagle Ford Shale.” In his closing, Chairman Fraser appointed a subcommittee, which I am to Chair, to study this new interim charge.
Mexico will surely look to Texas as a model for developing its natural resources. We must be prepared to take on any challenges and ensure we are ready and positioned to fully capitalize on the economic boom Mexico’s energy reforms will have on South Texas and the entire State. A few of the things we need to examine are the infrastructure needs to accommodate the anticipated growth, an educated and trained workforce to fill the jobs expected to be created, the environmental impact of expanded drilling, and safety and security concerns south of the border.
I look forward to convening the subcommittee studying the impact of Mexico’s energy reforms on Texas in the near future and making recommendations to the full Senate Committee on Natural Resources.
Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa is Texas state senator for District 20, which includes the counties of Nueces, Jim Wells, Brooks, and Hidalgo (part). Senator Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen, serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, a member of the Select Committee on Transportation Funding, Joint-Interim Committee to Study Water Desalination, and serves on the Senate Committees on Natural Resources, Criminal Justice, Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security, as well as the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), the Sunset Advisory Commission and Chairman of the Subcommittee Studying the Impact of Mexico's Energy Reforms on Texas.