Here's my interview on KEYE TV with video here: http://keyetv.com/news/local/falling-oil-prices-could-spell-trouble-for-austin.
For the last year and a half, drivers across the nation have enjoyed paying less and less for a gallon of gasoline. "Lower gasoline prices help us to have more money to go buy food or put food on the table," said Dr. Vance Ginn, economist at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
But Dr. Ginn notes, here in Texas, that good news is countered by bad news. "If it continues to stay low, there is going to be some larger effects moving forward," he said. "Oil and gas is the lifeblood of the Texas economy, and really, the nation."
Eighteen months after oil prices began to slump due to a global oversupply and a strong dollar, Dr. Ginn is using the R-word on Texas cities that depend more on the oil and gas industry. "In Houston or Midland-Odessa, they're really going to struggle. And we could see more regional types of recessions," he said.
Texas has diversified its industries since the oil bust of the 1980s -- more tech in Austin, financial services in Dallas-Fort Worth. And if you just look at job growth numbers, all seems well. "Over the last year, Austin job growth has increased by 4.1 percent. That's pretty fast," Dr. Ginn said. But Austin, even though it's heavy on tech, can't hold out on oil and gas trouble forever. "There is less consumption," said Dr. Ginn. "There's a slowdown in hiring, things of that nature that also has an effect on Austin itself." Already, the state is seeing a dip in revenues coming from the oil and gas industry.
So while Austinites enjoy the low gas prices, remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
"Fourteen percent of the private economy being dependent on oil and gas activity across the state of Texas, you are going to see that spread across the state including in Austin," Dr. Ginn said.
Ph.D. Economist at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Blog posts are publications by the author.