McFeely: N.D. a cheap date for oil companies

While Texas and New Mexico get real money to help with issues, N.D. celebrates free toys
Forum columnist Mike McFeely

The headlines came about a week apart and should be alarming to North Dakotans, if they cared about the influence of oil companies on their state. They obviously don't, judging by election results for the past decade. North Dakota is Hammistan, named after the de facto governor who resides in Oklahoma.

But, I've been told by dreamy-eyed progressives in North Dakota that it's never about the results and it's always about the fight, so I'll continue to be a voice in the wilderness.

Headline No. 1, from Reuters on Nov. 18: "Exclusive: U.S. shale firms offer $100 million to aid Texas, New Mexico."

Headline No. 2, from the Bismarck Tribune on Nov. 26: "Hess to give more than 8,000 toy trucks and STEM kits to North Dakota schools."

Conclusion: North Dakota, you are a cheap date. And "date" can mean several things when money is being exchanged.

But, hey, who wouldn't be excited when a worldwide multi-billion dollar oil company donates toy trucks to your schools. Toy trucks!

"Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford ... said the trucks align with two initiatives in the governor's office: education innovation and workforce development," the Bismarck newspaper reported. "'This is a another tool that we want to use to encourage you all to be able to stay here and grow up and have families and find a fulfilling career,' Sanford told ... fourth graders."

Toy trucks!

Meantime, at points south, a consortium of more than a dozen U.S. oil companies pledged $100 million in West Texas and New Mexico "to ease stresses on health care, education and civic infrastructure from the oil and gas boom," according to Reuters.

There was no mention of toy trucks (!) in the article, but this seems like a good deal for an area overrun by a boom.

"The group seeks to address labor and housing shortages, overtaxed health care and traffic congestion caused in part by companies descending on the Permian Basin, the nation's largest oilfield, where they hope to pump billions of dollars' worth of oil and gas in coming decades," Reuters reported.

The news service quoted consortium organizer Don Evans, a Republican who is a former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and longtime close friend of former President George W. Bush: "It's a significant amount of money, but these are huge challenges. We don't have enough teachers. We don't have enough doctors."

But, toy trucks!

In North Dakota, the Republican lieutenant governor is touting them as a path forward on education innovation and workforce development. In Texas, Republicans who run the state are seeking cold, hard cash -- and lots of it -- to help solve their issues.

Wouldn't it be delicious if some of the $100 million going to West Texas and New Mexico came from money saved by oil companies that were handed an extraction tax cut in North Dakota?

It probably wouldn't be that big of a deal to North Dakotans. They've long decided prostituting their state, er, being a cheap date for Big Oil is good enough. Toy trucks (!) is a steep enough price for them.