A Pain Deep in the Heart of Texas

Once wealthy states can no longer count on black gold

It seemed as if the good times would go on forever. As the price of fuel soared through the 1970s, the economies of oil-rich regions, from Texas and Oklahoma to Wyoming and Alaska, exploded. The frantic growth fed on itself: in Tulsa, Houston and Denver, skylines seemed to sprout overnight. The new wealth was intoxicating, making giddy millionaires out of young geologists, and inspiring dentists to become oil barons. Says Texas Historian T.R. Fehrenbach: "Oil was a big hot flash of money."

Now that powerful flash is but a weak flicker. The fallout from collapsing energy prices can be seen throughout...

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