Monday, June 4, 2012

Montana Tech grad new CEO of ConocoPhillips -- with some thoughts on the Keystone Pipeline

It's Monday, and time for some oil-related news:

Today, we leave the Bakken play in North Dakota and eastern Montana and head west to Butte, at the other end of the state. A Montana Tech grad, Ryan Lance, is the new CEO of ConocoPhillips, a huge multi-national corporation with "18,000 employees, more than $200 billion in annual revenue, and billions of gallons of fossil fuel production from 19 countries in the farthest corners of the world," according to an article in the Butte Montana Standard.

Butte and Montana Tech are justly proud of having a graduate reach one of the pinnacles in the oil industry. It is the sort of thing that attracts top-notch students who are serious about careers in the mining, oil, and gas industries. As well as having been instrumental in raising millions of dollars for Montana Tech, Mr. Lance's success has an impact on students and prospective students:

I think it does a lot for the confidence level of our petroleum engineers,” said (the head of the Montana Tech Foundation.) “They can look at him and say "I’m going to this small college in southwest Montana, but here is where I can go."

When a native son makes good at the highest levels, it only makes sense at least to listen to what he has to say.

For instance, this:

(Lance stated that) regulatory approval and construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would be a boon for oil production in the U.S. as well as the national economy.

“It just helps everybody when you can get cheaper energy and more jobs,” he said.

While Montana's Democratic Senators, to their credit, did vote for the construction of the pipeline, their leadership was lacking, being unable to corral the 4 additional Democratic votes that would have been necessary to move the project forward. The bottom line is that this was a "free" vote for Sens. Tester and Baucus -- they get credit for voting for the project, but can plead expediency with their liberal out-of-state donors, arguing that no harm was done since it wasn't going to pass anyway. Would they have been willing to be the 59th and 60th vote? We'll never know. Additionally, Senator Tester, in what was probably a sop to his liberal donors and constituents, has called for a ban on allowing oil from the pipeline to be sold outside the U.S.

Come again? Apparently, Sen. Tester doesn't understand that when a pipeline is being built with private funds, carrying oil that has been drilled and pumped from the ground at private expense, oil companies should be allowed to sell their oil wherever they can get the best price for it.

It is a particularly cheeky proposal from Tester, given that the oil in question is (at present) all Canadian oil. So Tester expects Canadians to sell their oil to the U.S. at prices that by definition would not be subject to worldwide market forces? Disgraceful. Sen. Tester needs a refresher course in how free enterprise (and respect for one's neighbors) works.

But back to the high achiever of the hour -- Mr. Lance. He has modeled just how one gets a chance of moving up in the world, having shown a willingness to take on any assignment during his career -- the more challenging the better. And he has never forgotten his roots. What's not to like? We wish him well in his new position.

Now if we could just get Montana's oil industry in the Bakken and elsewhere humming, so we could have more jobs for Montana Tech grads -- jobs that don't involve having to leave Montana, that is.

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