- May 1, 2015: Vol. 2, Number 5

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Oil City Is Losing Its Viscosity: Crude could blacken the outlook for Houston and other energy-dependent metros

by Mike Consol


Houston has got a problem.

The red-hot Texas city has been running its economic engine on high-viscosity oil for years, to great effect. It might be difficult for some of us to believe that economies still run on something this primeval as oil. But oil is the culture in Houston; it is a matter of civic pride. Oil is to Houston what champagne is to France. And it’s a darn good living at $110 a barrel. Houston honky-tonks have been belting out songs of happiness and prosperity for some time now.

Then global forces beyond anyone’s control decided to give Houston’s economic engine an unwanted oil change. Simply put, the price of oil slipped from $110 to about $50 per barrel, and that took a lot of viscosity out of the city’s smooth-running economy. You can almost smell the piston rings starting to smoke. The price of oil has been driven downward by a 76 percent increase in supply. That is the result of two factors. First, U.S. production has spiraled

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