In the brutal final scene from the 2007 movie “There Will Be Blood,” sociopathic oilman Daniel Plainview meets his rival for the last time. If oil fields are like milkshakes, he says, it pays to have a straw that reaches all the way across the room “and starts to drink your milkshake.”
“I. Drink. Your. Milkshake,” Plainview screams maniacally. “I DRINK IT UP!”
What does that have to do with the Railroad Commission of Texas? More than you might think. That’s because the commission regulates oil and gas in Texas. Ironically, it has nothing to with railroads.
“The commission acts like a court,” says Charles Matthews, who served on the three-member commission from 1995 to 2005 before stepping down to become chancellor of Texas State University.
That three-person “court” decides on disputes between oil and gas drillers to make sure nobody drinks anyone else’s milkshake.
“The oil business is a lot about ‘close-ology,’” Matthews says. “The closer you can get, the better chance you have of hitting a well.” One of the commission’s job is to decide whether a driller is getting too close to someone else’s well.