AUSTIN, Texas - The lower price at the pump is fueled in part by what's being pumped out of the ground in Texas.
Last year the oil and gas industry paid $16 billion in state taxes and royalties as well as providing 428,000 jobs and more than a million indirect jobs. It also helps fund education and is a big reason why there is no state income tax.
That's why Thursday night, during the late part of the presidential debate, an exchange between President Trump and Joe Biden raised eyebrows.
However, the oil and gas industry does more than provide fuel for vehicles and to generate power. “Oil and natural gas literally forms the building block 96% of products that we use that make modern life possible,” said Todd Staples with the Texas Oil and Gas Association.
Staples says some of the products may surprise you. "Cell phones, contact lenses, plastic heart valves, syringes, medical devices, hand sanitizer, the fibers in our carpet,” he said.
There are hundreds of more products like computers, pill containers, antihistamines, and aspirin. Even green energy needs oil and gas to build electric cars and windmills. Staples warns foreign producers will step in if the U.S. bows out.
“Our fuels today are 99% cleaner than they were a few decades ago, carbon dioxide emissions are down substantially, because of the use of clean natural gas, methane emissions from oil and gas systems are down 23% since 1990, all the while oil and natural gas production has increased substantially,” said Staples.
During the debate, and after it, Biden clarified he wasn't calling for a total shutdown, only a transition. But in social media posts, Gov. Greg Abbott and others quickly criticized Biden's initial comment, saying his plan would kill paychecks for Texas families.
Polls before the debate showed that in Texas, Biden and Trump were tied. The comment could take Texas out of play for Biden, but losing Texas would not be a disaster, according to political analyst Brian Smith. “Texas would be the icing on the cake of an electoral college victory, but it isn’t the cake itself, people love cake and you can eat it without icing,” he said.
Even the loss of a key battleground state like Pennsylvania, which is also an oil and gas producer, according to Smith, may not cost Biden the election. “And I guess he’s looking at a map and says, I can still win this thing. Hillary Clinton didn’t win Ohio, Hillary Clinton didn’t win Pennsylvania but if he flips a couple of other states, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, he can still win without those energy states,” said Smith.
Smith added that the people who may be hurt by Biden's comments are some down-ballot Democrats running for Congress. There are several tight races in oil-producing states like Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.