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Plight of the Independent Oil Man in America

June 14, 1986

As a transplanted Texan who rode the oil boom up and down, I felt your front-page article (June 2), "Oil Patch Survivors Dwindling," to be insightful, accurate and sad. Debra Whitefield did a commendable job in capturing the mood of the times and accurately chronicling the plight of the independent oil man.

Harvey Rhoads of West Texas is the classic entrepreneurial oil man who made America a world oil power. Shamefully, his days are numbered as the risk is no longer commensurate with the reward. To be sure, the oil patch has seen its share of get-rich-quick types, but the Rhoads of this country are now paying the price for their excesses.

One significant point in the article could easily be overlooked. Wells that are "plugged" or "capped" are seldom brought back into production due to formation damage or cost. That production is usually lost forever.

Our country can ill afford to lose such potential energy resources due to current economic conditions. But the independent oil producer is being forced to do so.

The oil business takes a special type of risk-taker to explore for oil. The independent oil man is just such a special risk-taker. But today he is being replaced by the U.S. Steels (purchaser of Marathon) and DuPonts (purchaser of Conoco), seeking quicker profits than their own industries would otherwise provide.

Had U.S. Steel been a risk-taker it would have made the necessary capital investment in past years to protect its world position as the preeminent steel producer. It abdicated to foreign producers. Past history would indicate they have neither the vision nor commitment to run their current oil businesses in a manner that will assure our strategic position.

We need the Rhoads of this country and, while we may enjoy the current "cheap" gasoline prices, we better trust that many like him can survive the current oil price crisis to ensure that we have the oil necessary for survival in the foreseeable future. U.S. Steel and DuPont most certainly will not.


Woodland Hills

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