Coming Up with Dry Holes

Energy belt boomtowns sag as cheaper oil jolts the petroleum industry

Rising oil prices meant high times for Blocker Energy Corp., a leading contract drilling firm. The Houston-based company assembled a worldwide fleet of rigs and kept them perpetually and profitably busy in the hunt for oil. But falling prices have choked that search and nearly throttled Blocker, which lost $71.7 million in 1982. "Our immediate priority," says Chairman J.R. Blocker, "is to survive."

Such woes are the bust side of the boom that fueled the energy industry at the end of the 1970s. Oilmen,...

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