Research & Commentary: Study Shows Potential Economic Pain in Montana if Fracking Is Banned on Federal Lands

Published January 20, 2021

A new study from the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming (UW) lays out how a ban on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on federal lands would lead to “significant fiscal and economic losses” in Montana through 2040.

The Fiscal and Economic Impacts of Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Lease Moratorium and Drilling Ban Policies, commissioned by the Wyoming Energy Authority and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and released in December 2020, shows how Big Sky Country would suffer under both a moratorium on new leasing ventures and an outright ban on fracking altogether, which President Joe Biden has pledged to impose.

The development of shale reserves in Montana has turned the state into the twentieth-largest producer of natural gas in the United States, as well as the fourteenth-largest producer of crude oil.

“Based upon…investment and production forecasts, a federal leasing ban would result in a $32 million reduction in oil and gas investment in Montana during the first year,” the study notes. “These losses in investment spending escalate to $78 million by 2025. Losses in oil and gas output are $65 million and $12 million respectively by 2025. A leasing moratorium reduces annual Montana oil and gas tax revenues by $61 million in 2025.

“Under a drilling ban,” the study continues, “the loss in value added increases to $50 million in 2021 and rises to $124 million during 2025. Annual personal income losses exceed $23 million during the first five years under a drilling ban and escalate over time. By 2025, the annual loss in personal income total $56 million. Compounding the loss in oil and gas tax revenues are additional tax losses arising from lower sales and income taxes associated from lower economic activity. With lower levels of economic activity due to a drilling ban, employment losses are 354 in 2021 and 747 in 2025.”

These would not be the only negative effects of a moratorium or ban. In 2021 alone, Montana would see $13 million in lost income, a $29 million loss in value added, and the loss of 210 jobs under a lease moratorium. Under a total ban, in 2021 alone, the state would experience the loss of $23 million in income, $50 million in value added, and 354 jobs. Cumulative losses under a moratorium through 2040 would reach $2.3 billion in income and $5.2 billion in value added, while under a fracking ban the total losses would reach $2.4 billion in income and $5.4 billion in value added.

“While these economic impacts are much smaller than those estimated for other states [in the study] so too is federal oil and gas production in Montana. Like the previously mentioned states, federal oil and gas production in Montana is in rural areas and while these economic losses may seem minor to the overall Montana economy, they will have an impact on rural communities and local governments reliant upon mineral tax revenue.”

Hydraulic fracturing enables the cost-effective extraction of once-inaccessible oil and natural gas deposits. These energy sources are abundant, inexpensive, environmentally safe, and can ensure the United States is the world’s largest energy producer well beyond the 21st century. Therefore, Montana policymakers should refrain from placing unnecessary burdens on the natural gas and oil industries, which are safe and positively impact the Montana economy, and urge their federal colleagues in Washington, DC to do likewise.

The following documents provide more information about hydraulic fracturing and fossil fuels.

The Fiscal and Economic Impacts of Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Lease Moratorium and Drilling Ban Policies
This report from the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming demonstrates how a fracking ban or leasing moratorium on federal lands like the one advocated by the Biden presidential campaign would severely harm the economies of eight western states.

What If…Hydraulic Fracturing Were Banned? (2020 Edition)
This study from the Global Energy Institute at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says a ban on fracking in the United States would be catastrophic for our economy. Their analysis shows that if such a ban were imposed in 2021, by 2025 it would eliminate 19 million jobs and reduce U.S. Gross Domestic Product by $7.1 trillion. Tax revenue at the local, state, and federal levels would decline by nearly a combined $1.9 trillion. Natural gas prices would leap by 324 percent, causing household energy bills to more than quadruple. By 2025, motorists would pay twice as much at the pump for gasoline as oil prices spike to $130 per barrel, while less domestic energy production would also mean less energy security.

America’s Progress at Risk: An Economic Analysis of a Ban on Fracking and Federal Leasing for Natural Gas and Oil Development
The study from the American Petroleum Institute (conducted by economic modeling firm OnLocation) warns that banning federal leasing and fracking on public and private lands, which some presidential candidates have proposed, would cost up to 7.5 million American jobs in 2022 alone, lead to a cumulative GDP loss of $7.1 trillion by 2030, slash household incomes by $5,400 annually, increase household energy costs by more than $600 per year and reduce farm incomes by 43 percent due to higher energy costs. If a ban is enacted, the U.S. would flip from being a net exporter of oil and petroleum products to importing more than 40 percent of supplies by 2030.

Debunking Four Persistent Myths about Hydraulic Fracturing
This Heartland Institute Policy Brief by Policy Analyst Timothy Benson and former Heartland communications intern Linnea Lueken outlines the basic elements of the fracking process and then refutes the four most widespread fracking myths, providing lawmakers and the public with the research and data they need to make informed decisions about hydraulic fracturing.

The Local Economic and Welfare Consequences of Hydraulic Fracturing
This comprehensive study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research says fracking brings, on average, $1,300 to $1,900 in annual benefits to local households, including a 7 percent increase in average income, a 10 percent increase in employment, and a 6 percent increase in housing prices.

Impacts of the Natural Gas and Oil Industry on the U.S. Economy in 2015
This study, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute, shows that the natural gas and oil industry supported 10.3 million U.S. jobs in 2015. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage paid by the natural gas and oil industry, excluding retail station jobs, was $101,181 in 2016, which is nearly 90 percent more than the national average. The study also shows the natural gas and oil industry has had widespread impacts in each of the 50 states.

The U.S. Leads the World in Clean Air: The Case for Environmental Optimism
This paper from the Texas Public Policy Foundation examines how the United States achieved robust economic growth while dramatically reducing emissions of air pollutants. The paper states that these achievements should be celebrated as a public policy success story, but instead the prevailing narrative among political and environmental leaders is one of environmental decline that can only be reversed with a more stringent regulatory approach. Instead, the paper urges for the data to be considered and applied to the narrative.

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels – Summary for Policymakers—summary-for-policymakers
In this fifth volume of the Climate Change Reconsidered series, 117 scientists, economists, and other experts assess the costs and benefits of the use of fossil fuels by reviewing scientific and economic literature on organic chemistry, climate science, public health, economic history, human security, and theoretical studies based on integrated assessment models (IAMs) and cost-benefit analysis (CBA).

The Social Benefits of Fossil Fuels
This Heartland Policy Brief by Joseph Bast and Peter Ferrara documents the many benefits from the historic and still ongoing use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are lifting billions of people out of poverty, reducing all the negative effects of poverty on human health, and vastly improving human well-being and safety by powering labor-saving and life-protecting technologies, such as air conditioning, modern medicine, and cars and trucks. They are dramatically increasing the quantity of food humans produce and improving the reliability of the food supply, directly benefiting human health. Further, fossil fuel emissions are possibly contributing to a “Greening of the Earth,” benefiting all the plants and wildlife on the planet.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this subject, visit Environment & Climate News, The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

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