Energy Revolution: Six things you didn't know about the Texas oil boom

The energy revolution in the United States is transforming communities across the country, but the effect is felt nowhere more acutely than in Texas. No stranger to the oil business, Texans have seen boom times before as well as the busts that tend to follow close behind. Still, even with the accumulated experience of generations reliant on the local oil industry, Texans are in uncharted territory today.

In its November 2013 issue, Texas Monthly devoted a series of articles by Bryan Mealer, Katy Vine, and Loren Steffy to exploring the myriad ways the oil boom is affecting the state. TIME picked out some of the most fascinating tidbits from this remarkable package.

1. By 2014, the state of Texas is expected to jump ahead such oil-producing heavyweights as Venezuela, Mexico, Kuwait and Iraq to become the ninth-largest oil producer in the world. According to one study, the industry has directly created well over half a million new jobs since the start of the boom.

2. Oil companies are expected to spend $100 billion on drilling operations in the Eagle Ford Shale, an oil-and-gas rich geological formation that scoops through south Texas like a ladle cradling Austin and San Antonio. In money spent on exploration and drilling, the Eagle Ford Shale “play”—that’s Oilman-ese for a big oil find in a geologic formation—surpasses every other play in the world.

3. At night, you can see Texas’ oil boom from outer space. Images taken by a NASA satellite show a thick band of glowing dots, like stars, along the Eagle Ford Shale. This isn’t a new elongated boomtown stamped onto the desert—the sparkling dots are gas flares burning through the night at the oil wells that dot play.

4. The Texas oilman man most responsible for innovations in fracking and horizontal drilling that led to the boom in Texas and around the world was George Mitchell. At the time, many thought his obsession with finding a new way to access fossil fuels trapped underground was a little odd, but his advances have radically changed the American economy and nobody’s snickering now. Mitchell died in July at age 94.

5. The impact Texas’ oil boom has had on communities in places like south Texas—an historically under-served and poverty-stricken corner of the state—is best illustrated through the town of Cotulla, where Lyndon Johnson taught the children of migrant workers before launching a career in politics. Johnson’s wife Lady Bird once described Cotulla as “one of the crummiest little towns in Texas.” When Johnson taught in Cotulla, and for a long time thereafter, the tiny community was wracked by deeply entrenched poverty. In the past two years the town’s population has tripled. Between 2008 and 2012, sales tax receipts rocketed from $400,000 to $3 million, and property tax base went from $52 million to $137 million—$4.7 billion countywide. That bonanza has transformed the community, providing money for new roads and sports facilities. There’s talk of a community college.

6. Of course, there are two sides to any coin and the tremendous growth seen in communities around Texas has brought on a host of other social ills. Camps full of young men making spectacular money with little to spend it on are a goldmine for peddlers of sex and drugs. Traffic accidents in McMullen County have jumped by 300 percent since the start of the latest Texas oil boom.

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