Historic Oil Bust Delivers A Gut Punch To 1 High-Flying Texas County
People in the oil business are familiar with the cycle of boom and bust prices. Soar prices plunge but they've never seen anything like twenty twenty when the pandemic abruptly brought prices to record lows even below zero. Npr's John Burnett reports from the Permian basin the heart of oil country in West Texas on a normal day in Andrews County look in any direction and stretching to the horizon. You'll see bobbing horseheads of pump. Jacks sucking up oil from deep in the earth but these are anything but normal days right. Now it's scary honestly Linden pertain. A well technician standing in Mesquite. Scrubland that overlays. What experts call a Monster Oilfield? We drove out here. Usually you'd see you with all these good wells. That historically have done a lot of production. They would usually all pumping and kind of looks like caterpillars all running across the landscape. You know and that's not happening right now. All across the vast permian that straddles West Texas and southeast New Mexico. Wells have been shut in in the Argot of the oil patch. American oil companies are pumping a million fewer barrels a day than were just two months ago. According to the Energy Information Administration all the big players out here Exxon Mobil Chevron conaco Phillips have slashed for Andrews County. The effect has been cataclysmic. The county is considering layoffs and the city of Andrews will hold off repairing streets and building a new city hall when you have a community that receives about eighty five to ninety percent of their tax revenue for minerals. It's a serious threat. County Judge Charlie Falcon follows the news. And here's about other cities. Taking a hit from closed. Businesses and Hospitalizations Andrews has had only twenty one cases of covert nineteen and most people have recovered. Nonetheless was Texas is getting a double dip of trouble. Not only do. We have all drop. We have corona virus. And we don't know how long it's going to stay around. You know what people not working not been able to shop not being able to you now sell oil Creates SERIOUS PROBLEM FOR US? Bob Stewart's welding and machine shop. His lost half its business amid the paralysis in the oil patch. A few jobs keep trickling in stewardess Paul and lumbering and jovial. He's done this for nearly forty years. He survived downturns before. But he says he's never seen demand if that rate like this whole world. There's no airplanes fly. There's No car driving cruise ships cruising. There's no summer vacations. Golic's we're producing a lot of oil for a world. That's not using not consuming Bob Stewart is grateful that he has not had to lay off any of his hundred ten employees. He got more than a million and a half dollars through the federal government's paycheck protection program. But that's not going to last forever. It's kind of nine eleven you over. You know what I don't know what it looks like. What comes out. The other side is going to be different with more than twelve thousand active whales in Andrews County. Hydrocarbons have been good to this community. There's an air conditioned Rodeo. Arena a waterpark and new little league baseball diamonds. The schools have a planetarium and an Olympic sized swimming pool. All over town. Grieving motorcycles and ski boats are parked in driveways and behemoth pickup trucks. Roar Down Main Street though the one two punch of the pandemic and the oil bust have left the region staggering. It should not have come as a complete surprise. Every oil addicted town has been before I've been interviewed by the media three times and every time it's when Andrews is on the map for some dubious reason with the Economy Russell Shannon President of the National Bank of Andrews says established companies. That saved for a rainy day. Will weather this bust a lot better than others as I. Try to tell some the younger ones when they try to get in the business. There's a storm cloud out there just because you don't see it today doesn't mean there's not one on the horizon. I mean we've just historically we've seen it too many times. The oilfield workers with six figure salaries thought it would never end. Even though it always does Mighty O. Fernandez was laid off three weeks ago. As a workover rig supervisor now he's realizing just how good he had it. While I've noticed so much didn't realize how much I spent when I was at work breakfast lunch. Taking guys out to buy food. You know of course you want to you know. Give your guys. Hey good job in here here. Some steaks baked potatoes or something for doing you know working to butts. Fernandez sits on his front stoop and Andrews having a smoke and catching the night air after a scorching hundred and four degree day. Now he stays home helps his teenage son with his homework and he tries to keep a positive attitude. I used to worry a lot The Bible says not to worry about what tomorrow because we don't even know we're GonNa make it more so I just have faith and just believing that it's GonNa come back together. The question is when and how long folks can hold out John Burnett. Npr News Andrews Texas.