Weekend wrapup: Oil prices hit 22-year low, Abbott pads task force with donors


Sunday saw oil prices plummet to a 22-year low as the pandemic-induced recession continues to take its toll.

The West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for oil prices, dropped to $11 in early Monday morning trading — its lowest point since 1998, when the Asian financial crisis sent oil prices tumbling. 

The combination of cheap oil prices and little demand has already stressed the Texas economy. Earlier this month when the price of oil floated around $20 per barrel, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said the state was in a recession and tax revenue would most likely fall by billions

Hegar has promised to give a revised fiscal forecast of the state’s general revenue and budget sometime in July.

Abbott gets flak for Strike Force

On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the creation of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, a task force that will study and make recommendations about when businesses in the state can begin to reopen.

Following the announcement, multiple reports have found serious conflicts of interest with the people Abbott has tapped to lead and advise the task force.

“Thirty-one of the council’s 39 members have contributed to Abbott’s past runs for governor and attorney general, and since 2015, 25 have given Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign at least $5.8 million combined,” reported The Dallas Morning News on Saturday.

Another analysis by the Texas Observer had similar findings, reporting that at least 21 of the council advisors have contributed more than $6 million to Abbott since 2015.

Texas’ COVID-19 curve shows promise

As of Monday morning, Texas is reporting 18,923 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 477 fatalities from the virus.

Two projections that use state data are showing positive signs for how Texans are handling the curve. The first, the Covid Act Now model of projected hospitalizations, is predicting that hospitals in the state won’t be overloaded by the pandemic. Another model from the University of Washington that tracks fatalities recently updated its projection, estimating that the coronavirus curve in Texas is already within its peak and that the number of daily deaths will begin to rapidly decline within the next few weeks before ultimately being flattened in mid-May. 

All of these estimates, of course, depend on social distancing requirements being maintained by Abbott who is now planning the phased reopening of Texas. For now, the number of confirmed cases and fatalities reported in the state continue to rise at a varied rate.

Photo: USDA NRCS TexasWikimedia Commons

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