"The Oil Biz": How's It Going?

POSTED: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 - 9:17pm

UPDATED: Thursday, April 8, 2010 - 1:45am

EAST TEXAS - Experts say, you can tell how the oil industry is doing, by the price of per barrel of oil and how many rigs are pumping.

And lately, the oil industry in Texas is being hit hard.

And we're told, it may get worse.

Gas prices at the pump have been low for the first part of 2009— between a $1.60 and $1.80.

And sure, that means less money in our back pocket.

But, for those who work in the industry, low prices and low barrels of oil, under 40-bucks, means hard times in "The Oil Biz."

Tom Mullins says, "It's a very important part of our economy."

Tom Mullins is the President of the Tyler Economic Development Council.

He says, the oil industry is one of "biggest employers" in East Texas.

Mullins says, "They usually have high paying jobs and benefits that people can make a living wage from."

But, as the economy worsens, the oil industry is taking a hit.

Independent Contract Pumper Terry Bewley says, "You know what they say in the oil field, it's either famine or feast. And, there's been more famine than there has been feast."

Bewley has worked in "The Oil Biz", 7 days a week, for the last 25 years.

Bewley says, "It's just now starting to hit here."

According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates the oil industry in our state, the rig count is low and drilling permits are beginning to drop.

Since last Summer, they tell us, the number of active oil rigs has dropped by 25-percent..

President of Sabine Pipe in Kilgore Bill Adamson says, "It's not good when you have 350 drilling rigs around the country laid down now and not working. That tremendously affects our industry."

Adamson tells us, that's showing up in the East Texas oilfield, which consists of Gregg, Upshur, Smith, Rusk and Cherokee Counties.

He says, there's a total of 30-thousand drilling wells in that patch alone.

Only about 2-thousand of them are working wells.

Adamson tells us, East Texas is only drilling a little more than 12-thousand barrels a day.

It used to be millions.

And it trickles down— less oil, means fewer workers.

Adamson says, "A lot of jobs were lost starting in the fall of 2008 when the price of oil declined. When oil gets to a certain price, people don't work on anything."

The Railroad Commission estimates more than 200-thousand people in East Texas work in the oil industry.

And, many of them are losing jobs everyday.

Recently, Lufkin Industries laid off 53 of its oil field division employees.

Lone Star Steel announced they were letting more than a thousand workers go.

And the Associated Press reports, both Halliburton and Schlumberger announced they would cut hundreds of jobs.

Sabine Pipe even felt the hit.

"Reporter: It just breaks your heart doesn't it? Adamson: It does. And that's probably the first time we've had to lay people off."

Mullins says, "I think as you see the national economy improve and the world economy improve, you'll see oil and gas actively increase."

Unfortunately, for "The Oil Biz", it could get worse.

"Reporter: Should people be worried? Mullins: Sure, I think people have to be concerned about the East Texas economy."

After all, if the price of oil continues to stay this low, under 40-bucks a barrel, experts tell us, hundreds of thousands more Texans will lose their jobs.

Historically, the oil business goes through "oil booms and busts."

Wednesday night at 10, find out what may be next for "The Oil Biz."

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