Tag Archives: Midland-Odessa

Energy still drives economy

An interesting survey popped up on MSN.com that showed the cities with the five best economies in the United States.

Of the five, four of them have something in common: oil.

The energy-related economies that made the top five are: Midland and Odessa, Texas, Fargo, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D. Midland and Odessa ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. The third-best local economy belongs to Pascagoula, Miss.


This is an interesting development in that Midland and Odessa experienced tremendous booms in the 1970s when the price of oil “skyrocketed” to what then was considered a huge price for a barrel of oil: about $40 and change. Midland built skyscrapers downtown, creating a skyline in a city of about 80,000 that would become the envy of city planners in much-larger communities. Those gleaming, tall buildings would go dark in the 1980s as the price of oil collapsed and companies declared bankruptcy.

I was living in Beaumont at the time and watched petrochemical plants lay off thousands of employees as the demand for their products fell precipitously.

The cycle is repeating itself now in the Permian Basin and way up yonder in the Dakotas, where communities are being remade into something no one recognizes as drilling contractors pour into the region to explore for shale oil buried in what’s believed to be the largest petroleum reserve on the planet.

Let’s wish them luck during these boom times. They might need plenty of it if the oil economy collapses yet again — which could happen.

Those who’ve lived through some of these cycles before understand full well about the nature of that particular industry.

A word of caution: Start planning for some serious economic diversification.

‘Energy independence’ gets a little closer

Let’s look back about, oh, two years.

Gasoline prices were rocketing skyward. The U.S. government was under fire for failing to do more to encourage domestic oil exploration and production. Republicans across the land were lampooning the Democratic president for his abject failure to draw us closer to the day when we wouldn’t have to depend on foreign sources to run our industries and fuel our vehicles.

Now comes word that the Gross Domestic Product grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent, which is greater than what economists predicted. The cause of that spike in GDP growth? Domestic oil production.


Interesting, don’t you think?

Domestic oil production is at a 17-year high, according to White House economists. Are they being objective? Well, no neutral observer has questioned the numbers.

There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence in West Texas to make the point. The Permian Basin boasts the lowest jobless rate in the state. The reason? The huge demand for oil-related jobs.

I’ve been talking to friends and acquaintances with business interests in the Midland-Odessa area and they all say the same thing: You can’t get housing there; hotel rooms are booked up; those high-rise Midland skyscrapers, the ones built in the 1970s that went vacant when the oil industry crashed in the mid-1980s, have filled up again with tenants.

But don’t rely on that kind of chatter. There appears to be plenty of hard evidence of a turnaround.

All of this bodes pretty well for the United States as Americans watch with intense interest in developments in the Middle East. Egypt looked on the verge of exploding once again. Syria remains a serious question mark for the United States. No one can predict with any certainty what will happen in a region of the world from which we still get a lot of our oil.

Meanwhile, the pump jacks are still working hard here at home. North Dakota is becoming the next “Texas” and/or “Alaska.” Reports indicate an oil field discovery there that will dwarf the reserves known to lie under the Saudi sand.

And I haven’t even mentioned all the “alternative energy” sources being developed, such as the Panhandle wind farms.

Why are the critics so quiet these days?