A county in Texas has a story to tell about oil.
Karnes County, Texas, sits atop a geological treasure chest known as the Eagle Ford Shale. And that treasure chest has yielded countless benefits for area residents in the past few years, as evidenced by the growth of local businesses and improved quality of life in the region.
Oil and natural gas shale plays have become an economic engine in many communities across America. The residents of Karnes County, located southeast of San Antonio, understand how the energy industry creates an economic wave that travels far beyond the oil patch.
“The Eagle Ford Shale has been a blessing,” said Karnes County Commissioner Shelby Dupnik. “We were a very poor county, mostly farm and ranch land. People can now do things they’ve never been able to do, such as take better care of their families and upgrade their homes, farms and ranches.”
The tax base in Karnes County has skyrocketed, enabling the county government and its school districts to make important improvements.
A positive impact on the economy
Leslie Wynn, store manager for Alamo Lumber in Kenedy, said he’s watched the community grow from a sleepy little town to one with hustle and bustle.
“When I got here about 12 years ago,” he said, “it was a different place. Much more quiet. But when the Eagle Ford Shale play started up about four years ago, the positive impact on our community was clear. It’s been incredible to see the growth and the change for Kenedy and the Karnes County area."
The Eagle Ford play has attracted new businesses to the area, he said, including restaurants, a larger grocery store, retail, hotels, a housing development and three apartment complexes.
A threat to Karnes County and the United States
These small towns in Texas aren’t the only places reaping the benefits of the energy renaissance. Communities across the nation have seen increased jobs, affordable energy and reinvigorated economies spurred by new oil and natural gas development. But a policy created more than 40 years ago has the potential to put the brakes on these gains.
Developed in the 1970s, a ban prohibiting the United States from exporting crude oil could slow the pace of production in places like Karnes County, as the area produces significant volumes of “light” crude oil, which cannot be processed by many United States refineries. Fortunately, many global refineries are equipped to process “light” oil. If the energy renaissance is to continue in Karnes County and across the United States, the first step is to allow domestic crude to trade freely.
For residents of Karnes County, this could dictate their town’s future. Maggie Hunt, who runs a bed and breakfast in Kenedy, said the Eagle Ford Shale has been a huge benefit to the community.
“Before the Eagle Ford Shale,” she said, “we were one of the poorest counties in Texas.”
The boom has increased the county’s tax revenues, she said, giving the infrastructure a much-need boost, including improvements to the area’s roads.
Maggie’s husband, Truett, said the county went from having a very high unemployment rate to a very low one.
“There are very few people in the county who have not benefited from the oil field boom,” he said.
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