"Lord, please give me another oil boom," read the bumper sticker that was common in Texas in the mid eighties, after the oil boom of the seventies went bust. "This time, I promise not to blow it."
But experts on sustainability say Texas is about to blow it again, as there are no indications that the new prosperity which has made property owners in the brush Country Jed Clampett style millionaires and has brought thousands of people to the small ranching and cattle towns between San Antonio and Corpus Christi will survive the end of the oil and gas gushing out of shale formations thanks to the miracle of fracking.
Richard Tangum, who studies the Eagle Ford at UTSA, says the boom region is lacking the main quality needed to transform the relatively poor communities permanently--permanent residents.
"They may live in other portions of Texas, they come in there to work, and then they move from location to location," he said.
The small towns which have grabbed ahold of the Eagle Ford boom are seeing an increase in businesses catering to transients, Tangum said, but not the permanent development which will lead to lasting prosperity once the oil and gas are gone.
"Some of the research we're trying to do is determine what is the permanent impact, other than taxes from hotels and motels," he said.
From Spindletop in the early 20th Century to the Permian Basin of the mid 1980s to the 'see through office buildings' of Houston during the Savings and Loan bust of the early 1990s, the history of Texas is dotted with evidence of a boom and bust cycle. The oil comes, some people become 'the Big Rich,' but the people who live in the area where the oil is being pumped, and whose families have lived there for generations, continue to live in poverty.
Tangum says, for example, there is no evidence that workers in the Eagle Ford, who are coming to the Brush Country from all over the world, are bringing their families and have no intention of remaining. In fact, there will follow the next oil boom wherever it leads them. He says the result is that the towns of the Brush Country are not building new schools, new entertainment facilities, and the infrastructure which will support continued prosperity.
But the way to see that that occurs is problematic, and researches are just now beginning to examine how to make that work.