Column: We Need More Visits Like Giancarlo’s

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It’s easy to complain about the federal government — especially here in the upper Midwest.

We’re the forgotten country. The Flyover States. The reddest part of the nation increasingly regulated by a very blue 69 square miles on the East Coast.

So it was something of a pleasure to see federal commodities regulator

J. Christopher Giancarlo visit Dickinson on Monday for a conversation about North Dakota’s oil and energy industry.

Giancarlo, who sits on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, got a crash crash course in North Dakota energy and the Bakken from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness and Justin Bethancourt, ConocoPhillips’s operations superintendent for the Bakken. For more than an hour, the four discussed just what the energy business means to the state.

Giancarlo’s take on the oil business is simple and, frankly, a pretty popular opinion. He believes it’ll stay steady and keep jobs plentiful in the Bakken, but he knows prices probably won’t be climbing back to $100 a barrel anytime soon.

He cited the sluggish world economy and the oil industry’s own technology improvements — such as the ability to drill more than dozen wells on one pad — as reasons why oil will likely never employ as many people in the state as it did a few years ago. He may have said it best when he said oil companies are a victim of their own successes created during the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale booms.

Still, Giancarlo is confident the oil business isn’t busting in North Dakota and beyond, saying that oil companies here can wait for prices to get back to more comfortable levels.

“Some of our overseas competitors are hoping we can’t wait it out — that we can’t wait out the low prices,” he said. “I think they’re going to be surprised when they see this type of ingenuity, preparing ourselves for the lower prices. We can wait it out.”

Most of what Giancarlo said, many already knew. He just helped reinforce it.

What we should really take from Giancarlo’s visit is that he came to North Dakota and other Great Plains states recently — he also met with wheat and cattle producers in both South Dakota and North Dakota — because he wanted to see what his commission is dealing with at the ground level.

He drove through the emptiness of western South Dakota, where cattle outnumber people. He spoke with farmers and ranchers, and oil rig workers — the people producing the commodities his commission is charged with helping regulate.

It’s promising to see a regulator like Giancarlo actually leave the Beltway and visit us simple folk here in the Plains states to learn more about what makes things tick around here and find out just how important this area is in powering the nation, be it by food or fuel.

The Obama administration’s push for more federal regulation hits us right at home, whether it’s the coal, oil or agriculture industries. Wouldn’t it be nice to see those charged with implementing that regulation be forced to walk a day in the shoes of an oil rig worker or a farmer before making decisions that affect their livelihoods?

We need more people like Giancarlo willing to get out of D.C. and see what people in this part of the country are doing to move America forward.

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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