Natural Gas Benefits Everyone – Including Anti-Fracking Candidate Elizabeth Warren

GAIN has previously pointed out the significant economic and environmental benefits of natural gas. Increased use of natural gas has played a key role in lowering U.S. carbon emissions from the power sector. Natural gas is cleaner-burning than coal, and is domestically available in shale formations from the Permian in Texas to the Marcellus in Pennsylvania.  The natural gas and oil industry supports more than 10 million jobs each year. Furthermore, oil and gas leases alone generated $1.1 billion of revenue for states in 2018. The benefits go on and on.

Natural gas also provides royalties to mineral owners.

While Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is now promoting an all-out fracking ban as she competes for the Democratic Party nomination for president, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board reported last week that Senator Warren wasn’t always so staunchly opposed to natural gas development. In fact, it appears Warren and her family have benefited from the thriving natural gas industry for more than a decade. Regarding her new-found opposition to natural gas, the Journal writes:

So it’s worth noting that, for years, she and her husband reported modest income from natural-gas royalties in her native state of Oklahoma. Ms. Warren’s financial disclosure filed with the Senate in 2012 included $504 of income from “gas well royalty interests” in Latimer County. The next year it was $203. Drill a little deeper and the facts get even more interesting.

Ms. Warren’s campaign has posted 11 years of her tax returns, which show gas income from at least 2008. That year she filed jointly with her husband, Bruce Mann, who had $872 in royalties from gas wells in Oklahoma. There are smaller amounts—a few hundred dollars—reported over the next several tax returns, before the yearly earnings stop.

The editorial also goes on to point out Warren and her husband sold off interests in “all of the oil, gas, and other minerals,” writing:

2011 deed says Mr. Mann had sold his interest in “all of the oil, gas, and other minerals” under assorted pieces of land in Latimer County and Pittsburg County. The stated price was $5,000. The buyer? Alexander Warren, the Senator’s son. The deed is dated Aug. 19. It says the transfer of royalty was effective Sept. 1. Two weeks later, Sept. 14, Ms. Warren announced her Senate candidacy in Massachusetts.

There are more transfers in 2014, as Ms. Warren’s political profile was rising. “We are on the cusp of a climate crisis,” she told the Senate that March, “a point of no return that will threaten our health, our economy and our planet.” Two months later, deeds dated May 19 say Ms. Warren conveyed to her two children, Alexander and Amelia, her mineral rights for lands in Okfuskee County and Hughes County, amid the Woodford shale field in the state’s southeast.

While the royalties Warren and her husband received – and now, her children receive – appear to be relatively minor, it is important to note gas wells become less productive over time. The wells on the Latimer County property dates back to the 1990s, when output was much higher. The Warren campaign declined to say what the royalty amounts were back then when the wells were in their prime. As the Journal concludes:

If you ask us, there’s nothing wrong here: Many people hold mineral rights, and ownership can get fractured by inheritance. Fossil fuels make the world go round, powering everything from cars to MRI machines. As for the climate, natural gas and fracking are the main reason that America’s carbon emissions have dropped in recent years. Ms. Warren is a multimillionaire, so it isn’t as if a gas royalty would get her humming “We’re in the Money.”

… But back when she was a Harvard law professor, Ms. Warren and her husband cashed those gas checks—or at least they did until the month before she launched her Senate campaign. Once she entered public life, they apparently unloaded the inconvenient assets by transferring them to children, who then endorsed an oil-and-gas lease that would be politically toxic if it carried Ms. Warren’s signature.