The Brief: Jan. 6, 2015

Another day and another threshold is crossed in oil's steady downward march in value. This time it was the price of U.S. oil dipping below $50 during the day on Monday.

Trucks carry cement that will be mixed to fill the space between multiple layers of casing in preparation for the hydraulic fracturing process at a Chesapeake Energy drill site in Dimmit, Texas in the Eagle Ford Shale.

The Big Conversation

Another day and another threshold is crossed in oil's steady downward march in value. This time it was the price of U.S. oil dipping below $50 during the day on Monday.

Writing for the Houston ChronicleRyan Holeywell and Collin Eaton talk to experts who indicate there's nothing to prevent oil prices from falling further.

"No one is foolish enough to pick a bottom," investment manager Tariq Zahir told the Chronicle. "You have too much oil out on the market. Right now we haven't seen any sort of fundamental change."

In Texas, oil prices finding a floor in the first part of the year could create a "flattening" in exploration in the Eagle Ford shale in the second half of 2015, per Jennifer Hiller and Vicki Vaughan of the San Antonio Express-News. Any slacking in production could be remedied, though, if prices recover to $70 levels, according to one expert consulted by the reporters.

Others say oil companies have too much invested in Texas to walk away just yet. Chris Ramirez of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times writes

Hiring in energy should "remain steady" this year, said Omar Garcia, CEO of the South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable. However, it's not likely many companies will invest in large, expensive projects while crude prices fluctuate.

"Everyone is adjusting. This is a long-term (energy) play, and oil companies are committed to this region," Garcia said. "This isn't an investment they just going to walk away from."

And the Houston Chronicle's real estate writer Nancy Sarnoff talks with local realtors about the potential impact of sagging oil prices on the luxury end of the market.

"(Grace) Medellin said she noticed the overall market slowing around the holidays, but she's had a couple of open houses recently where activity was brisk. She's not yet sure how lower oil prices with affect the top end of the market. 'We're going have our first sales meeting of the year tomorrow and I'm sure we'll be talking about that,' she said."

The Day Ahead

•    Special elections take place today in Senate District 26, House District 17 and House District 123.

Trib Must-Reads

Raw Gas Fuels Worry for Rural Homeowner, by Jim Malewitz and Max B. Baker

Top Texas Officials on Hand as Paxton is Sworn In, by Bobby Blanchard

Abbott Celebrates Student's Inspiring Accomplishment, by Bobby Blanchard

Stick's Chief of Staff Facing Steep Pay Cut, by Terri Langford and Bobby Blanchard

Chancellor McRaven: Time to Move Past UT Conflicts, by Reeve Hamilton

Elsewhere

Patrick to seek 'serious’ tax relief, San Antonio Express-News

Pro-gay marriage in Texas ads air before court date, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Interior secretary criticizes fracking bans, The Hill

Jeb Bush fundraising apparatus ready for takeoff, Politico

Christie Faces Scrutiny Over Gifts From Cowboys Owner, Wall Street Journal

Gohmert Doesn’t Talk Like a Speaker, or Donate Money Like One, The New York Times

Lawmaker wants to make cowboy hat the official Texas topper, Houston Chronicle

Quote to Note

"The Texas way of dealing with its Mexican-American population has always been different. It's the Texas exceptionalism."

Roy H. Beck, leader of Numbers USA, on the resurgence of anti-illegal immigrant groups in Texas after President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Senate Caucus Chairs Kirk Watson and Joan Huffman on Jan. 12 at The Austin Club

•    Meet the New Guys in the House: Reps. Celia Israel, Linda Koop and César Blanco on Jan. 14 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With House Public Education Chair Jimmie Don Aycock on Jan. 22 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick on Jan. 27 at The Austin Club

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