Hard Times The Great Energy Bust

More than any previous recession in the U.S. oil and gas industry, this one smells dangerously permanent

Along Highway 80 in West Texas between Midland and Odessa, giant drilling rigs sit rusting in the winter sun. Gas wells that dot the bleak mesquite- covered prairie lie shut down. Downtown Midland has the stark look of an evacuated city, with empty storefronts and vacant building lobbies.

The scene across America's oil patch these days bears a chilling likeness to the bust that befell the region in the mid-1980s, when energy-production jobs plunged more than one-third. But in fact the situation today is worse. While many parts of the U.S. economy are struggling through the recession, few are as hard...

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