In October 2008, Petrohawk Energy drilled the first modern fracking well into the Eagle Ford Shale, sparking an oil and gas boom in what is now one of the world's most productive shale plays, responsible for 1.087 million barrels of oil per day. Large investments in production infrastructure and commercial developments have brought economic opportunities to one of the poorest areas in Texas. Notwithstanding multiple reports on economic activity, there have not been any studies examining how this development is experienced on the Eagle Ford Shale and the amount of local policymaker economic governance. I therefore ask: Does a resource curse exist on the Eagle Ford Shale? In framing this question, this study evaluates if social disruption and worsening economic inequality are present on the shale play. This thesis employs two methods: semi-structured interviews with 15 economic development officials from August 2014 to March 2015 and a spatial assessment of relative mineral wealth using 2010-2015 public tax data as a proxy for actual mineral wealth from Live Oak County, a core Eagle Ford oil and gas production county.
The interviews indicated that economic development officials are most concerned about the deterioration of roads, the high demand for housing, and ramifications of skyrocketing wages. Findings from the Live Oak County mineral wealth analysis demonstrate that only 1.95% remains local to the county. This absentee mineral wealth is concentrated with major energy firms in the Texas metropolitan regions. The implications from these results indicate that a traditional core-periphery relationship has developed on the Eagle Ford Shale, economic development officials remain optimistic about development despite receiving few benefits in an apparent royalty paradox, and social relations are changing possibly due to absentee mineral ownership. I answer the research question by noting that there are indications that the resource curse is present. As one respondent describes it, Eagle Ford \"[economic development] all depends on the price of oil!\" and not on policymaker actions.
- Brannstrom, Christian Professor and Associate Dean