This week the El Paso Inc. brought us both good news and bad news.
The good news is that there may be a lot of shale oil in Hudspeth County. That could bring the kind of economic development to the area that has pushed unemployment rates in North Dakota down to three percent.
The bad news is that there may be a lot of shale oil in Hudspeth County. That could bring the kind of environmental problems to the area that have crippled agriculture in East Texas.
Fracking (the method used for extracting shale oil) is water intensive. That has aggravated the water problems in drought stricken Texas. El Paso’s water supply might dry up, or be compromised by fracking chemicals. The fragile desert eco-system might be destroyed.
Also, demand for labor has led to an influx of obstreperous young men looking to blow off some steam when they get off of their eighty-hour shifts. A lack of employee housing has led to “man camps,” temporary housing for roughnecks and oilfield pencil pushers.
Will demand for employees throttle local business expansion as the deck gets reshuffled? Will your income rise to match the increase in prices that result from increased demand? You better get ready to pivot towards wildcat services.
The big problem, I reckon, is one that will be familiar to El Pasoans. The costs will be shared, but the profits won’t.