West Texas Drilling Boom Bodes Ill for Residents, the Planet

Driven by foreign demand, a surge in West Texas oil production is having adverse effects on the local populace, and contributes to climate change at a crucial moment.

October 13, 2018, 1:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Oil Drills

Thaiview / Shutterstock

Given the grim IPCC climate change report that's been making the rounds lately, it's a special irony that in certain parts of the world, oil extraction is booming. West Texas is one of those places, report Kiah Collier, Jamie Smith Hopkins, and Rachel Leven.

They write, "What's happening is unprecedented. In December, companies in the Permian Basin — an ancient, oil-rich seabed that spans West Texas and southeastern New Mexico — were producing twice as much oil as they had four years earlier, during the last boom. Forecasters expect production to double again by 2023. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and others say the drilling spree is ushering in a new era of American energy independence, but American demand isn't driving it. Foreign demand is."

The piece looks at some of the local pollution issues the industry is contributing to, and the state's patchy regulatory environment. "The U.S. just surpassed Russia as the world's top oil producer. The International Energy Agency predicts that American oil — most of it from the Permian — will account for 80 percent of the growth in global supply over the next seven years. That's bringing big profits to oil companies as well as lung-searing pollution to places where drilling has skyrocketed, while threatening to exacerbate climate change."

While the boom has brought profits and high wages to some, it's also wearing down local infrastructure and casting the region into the role of an "extraction colony" for the world's oil.

Thursday, October 11, 2018 in The Texas Tribune

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