Tag Archives: Spindletop

Water fuels the region, state economy

It’s been said for more than a century that the Spindletop oil boom in the Golden Triangle fueled the Texas economy. Pattillo Higgins’s gusher signaled a boom that knew no equal at the time.

That was then and there … way down yonder. Way up on the High Plains, water has been the fuel that runs the economic engine. On two, maybe three levels at that.

It irrigates our crops, giving farmers commodities to harvest and to feed the cattle that graze on the ranch land. It also quenches the thirst of we human beings who live here. And, yes, it provides recreational opportunities at places like, oh, Lake Meredith.

The lake’s national recreation area has recovered quite nicely from the bad ol’ days when the lake levels dropped to around 26 feet. Lake Meredith now stands at about 75 feet, attracting boaters, campers, fishermen and women, hikers, bikers, horseback riders.

Man, life is good at Lake Meredith these days.

As the Amarillo Globe-News reports: For the sixth consecutive year, the Lake Meredith National Recreation Area saw an increase in total visitor spending, job creation and economic output. There’s a direct correlation between the amount of people coming to the park and the amount of water in the lake, said Paul Jones, chief park ranger.

Last year, 1.329 million people came to the lake to boat or fish or camp, according to a new report from the National Park Service. Jones, who has worked at Lake Meredith for 20 years, said, “back in the ’80s, it was rockin’.” He said it was common for 1.5 million visitors to trek to the lake annually.

Then the drought started, water levels dropped and crowds dried up.

The water has returned. So have the crowds. This spells good fortune for the Texas Panhandle.

Where did the water originate? We had a wetter-than-normal year in 2017, despite the dryness of the fourth quarter of the year. The front of the year produced enough precipitation upriver along the Canadian River to allow release of water from Ute Lake Dam, N.M., which then flowed into Lake Meredith.

To be honest, the shocking receding of water levels in 2011 gave me pause to wonder if the lake ever could recover. Silly me. My concern was misplaced.

One more thing: The value of water to our region’s economy — from agricultural, human consumption and recreational aspects — should tell us all that we need to protect it, guard it, cherish it for future generations to enjoy … and survive.

Texas faces new oil bust, but might fare better this time


Texas is heading for a bad-news, good-news economic cycle.

The bad? The price of oil is going to continue falling, making it difficult for producers to keep drilling for the crude.

The good? Texas is better positioned this time to handle this bust compared to its history with these crazy economic cycles.

CNBC.com reports: “In some ways, the Texas oil industry today is a victim of its own success. After a steady output decline in the 1980s and ’90s, U.S. oil producers staged a remarkable and widely unexpected revival over the past decade by deploying new seismic and drilling technologies. By coaxing drill bits to move horizontally, and breaking up ‘tight’ oil formations with fracking, millions of barrels of oil have been produced from decades-old fields once left for dead.”

So, the world now has a glut of oil, thanks to tremendous increases in production here at home.

Texas is going bust, sort of.

I arrived in Texas in the spring of 1984 to begin work at a newspaper in the Golden Triangle, one of the world’s premier petrochemical producing regions. Life was good in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange.

Then the bottom fell out. Two years later, the price of oil had collapsed. Refineries and petrochemical plants laid off thousands of employees. Some operations shut down. The jobless rate zoomed to nearly 20 percent in that part of the state.

Life, quite suddenly, became not so good.

The mantra then became “economic diversification.” Texas had to branch out, seek other economic revenue streams to take the pressure off the oil and petrochemical industry.

So, the state did that. It invested in high-tech, medical research, automobile manufacturing and a lot of other smaller initiatives.

That 1980s oil bust hammered the Texas Panhandle, too, where I would move in early 1995.

And, yes, in this part of the state we’re faring relatively well. We, too, have diversified. We aren’t nearly as dependent on oil and natural gas as we’d been since, oh, the Spindletop gusher came in at the turn of the 20th century.

Has the state been hit hard by the steep drop in oil prices? Yes. CNBC reports that the gross state product has been reduced to near zero as the year draws to a close. State government is looking at a serious revenue shortfall that the Legislature will have to deal with when it convenes in January 2017.

There isn’t the sense of panic, though, that we felt in the 1980s.

Why? Much of the state has heeded the diversification warnings our leaders sounded the last time the bottom fell out.