ODESSA, Texas (NewsNation Now) — It’s hard to go far in West Texas without seeing a pumpjack. There are between 30,000 and 50,000 of them in the Permian Basin. After a year when demand for oil cratered so far the price went negative, it’s shooting back up, bringing the towns that rely on it back to life.
“Regardless of what your job is, if you’re in West Texas, you work in the oil business,” said Renee Earls, with the Odessa Chamber of Commerce.
In April 2020, nobody was flying, so airlines parked planes. Nobody was driving to work, so gas stations sat still. The world virtually stopped using oil, and the bottom fell out of the market.
“We always have ups and downs in the oil market, but last year we got hit with the double whammy,” said Kirk Edwards, former chairman of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association.
The number of active drilling rigs in West Texas fell from 600 to 150, which cost the area around 40,000 jobs.
“In 2019 we had the lowest unemployment rate in Texas, here in Midland and Odessa,” Edwards said. “After the pandemic, Odessa had the highest unemployment rate in the state.”
Industry workers were used to dining at steakhouses and living at a certain level. But the analysts told NewsNationNow.com many ended up in food pantry lines.
What made the crash even tougher to weather was the flash it came in. Carter Robinson, the CEO of American Energy Management, called it a “gut check moment.”
Many companies did not survive, but the ones that did are starting to rebound. Oil prices have nearly doubled, now hovering around $80 per barrel. If it holds, towns such as Midland and Odessa may be flush with cash again.
“There are signs of life here in West Texas for sure and they are positive signs and that’s what we have to have to keep this industry going ahead,” Edwards said.
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