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The Brief: Dec. 12, 2014

The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil closed Thursday below $60, "a level of great psychological significance," according to the Washington Post, and a price not seen in five years.

Pipes used for fracking are shown in front of a Fasken OIl and Ranch drilling rig outside of Midland on Oct. 8, 2013.

The Big Conversation

The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil closed Thursday below $60, "a level of great psychological significance," according to the Washington Post, and a price not seen in five years.

With prices of the global commodity off more than $40 from the summer, analysts are looking at what a shift in prices might mean in the larger economy:

In Houston, sagging oil prices could help cool off a housing market "by as much as 11 percent next year as fewer workers move into the region," according to the Houston Chronicle. And as lower oil prices lead to lower fuel costs, airlines are expected to pass savings to flyers, per The Associated Press. The average ticket could be 5 percent cheaper next year.

For state budget writers, though, falling oil prices inject a note of uncertainty. "With oil prices now around a five-year low, budget officials in about a half-dozen states already have begun paring back projections for a continued gusher of revenues. Spending cuts have started in some places, and more could be necessary if oil prices stay at lower levels," according to another report from the AP.

The wild card here is a shift in the United States away from oil consumption increasing in lock step with the overall economy. A report from Bloomberg News finds that "greater fuel efficiency, changing demographics and an increase in renewables are altering the dynamic that in the past would have seen demand for gasoline climbing."

Trib Must-Reads

New Leaders Hope to Burnish Laredo's Image, by Julián Aguilar

New Math Standards a Hurdle for Some Students and Teachers, by Morgan Smith

Analysis: The Court of Public Opinion, Revisited, by Ross Ramsey

Court Tells TDCJ To Name Death Drug Suppliers, by Terri Langford

Lawmakers Set $7 Billion "Floor" for Rainy Day Fund, by Aman Batheja

Elsewhere

Special FBI-led task force investigating public corruption in the Valley, San Antonio Express-News

State fails to report hundreds of abuse cases to law enforcement, KXAN-TV

‘License to Discriminate’ Bills Pile Up in Texas Legislature, Texas Observer

Health worries pervade North Texas fracking zone, Center for Public Integrity

A biennial Austin tradition: the post-election dash for cash, Houston Chronicle

Too many teams in Texas football playoffs?, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

In a Texas Court, a Fight for Lee Harvey Oswald’s Coffin, The New York Times

Islands of the Oil Kings: A fortress of power built to last, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

“We were elected to govern. If we blow it by not governing, then shame on us.”

— U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, who is critical of U.S Sen. Ted Cruz's tactic of opposing this week's must-pass spending bill as part of his efforts to countermand President Obama's executive order on immigration

Today in TribTalk

Why me and not Steve Adler, by Mike Martinez

Why me and not Mike Martinez, by Steve Adler

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep.-elect Will Hurd on Dec. 18 in Austin

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