Oil Oklahoma's strongest industry

May 10, 2012

Oil and gas is Oklahoma’s number one industry, according to Oklahoma City University’s Stephen C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute.

It reports that the industry is responsible for 12,000 new jobs in the state from 2009 through 2011.

That’s just counting oil production and drilling jobs. The spillover effects of oil and gas on Oklahoma’s economy are much greater.

“By the time you account for all the spillover benefits,” Institute Director Russell Evans said, “the oil and gas industry accounts for about one in three dollars of gross state product, about one in five dollars of state personal income, and about one in five jobs in the state.”

He says oil and gas is still not what it was in the ‘70s and ‘80s. But it is back to being the single most important industry to Oklahoma’s economy.

Evans says that this is in spite of what he calls “price challenges” that push Oklahoma oil and gas prices down.

Part of the reason, he says, is a supply glut at Cushing, a major hub in connecting Gulf Coast suppliers with northern consumers.

“We really have this lack of infrastructure that makes it difficult for producers to get oil from the field through the pipeline system, delivered to somebody in Cushing and moved on to a refinery somewhere,” he said.

So refineries in the Northeast still buy more expensive oil from abroad.

He says building that infrastructure combined with adding natural gas infrastructure—encouraging natural gas fleet vehicles and adding filling stations, for instance—would help drive up demand and make Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry even stronger.