The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981 Page: 294
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
less. Unlike oil, which can be temporarily stored and easily transported,
gas is a difficult substance to handle. It is hard to store and transport,
dissipates quickly, and is likely to ignite and explode.2 Moreover, al-
though both oil and gas can be used for heating, gas is useless as a lubri-
cant and auto fuel.
Because of these problems, there was in the 1930s very little market
for natural gas. The lack of a market made the monetary value of gas
quite low by today's standards. In 1930, when oil sold for almost a dollar
a barrel, the price of natural gas was 3.6 cents for a thousand cubic feet
("MCF"). At a heat equivalency of six MCF of gas to one barrel of oil,
this meant that oil was five times more valuable than gas in terms of its
As a result, gas fields were not then considered by most citizens to be
the great natural resources that they would be today. When Amarillo,
situated near an ocean of gas in the Panhandle, spent $60,00o adver-
tising its abundance nationally, it found not a single buyer. The city
administration then offered free gas for five years to any industry that
would move to Amarillo and employ fifty or more people, but still
found no takers.4 This example illustrates the situation of the petrole-
um industry in general for its first eighty years. Most producers re-
garded oil as the only hydrocarbon worth searching for.
For the leaseholder who owned a well over the 70 percent or so of
natural gas that occurs "unassociated" with oil, the low price was at
worst an annoyance. In the early days of the industry, discovery wells
in gas fields were often simply capped and forgotten.5
There were, however, a few uses for gas. A small number of industrial
concerns burned it for boiler fuel, and a few cities (such as Amarillo)
used gas in public utilities. Gas could be burned to produce the "car-
bon black" that was employed by the rubber industry, and, as the
2John R. Stockton, Richard C. Henshaw, Jr., and Richard W. Graves, Economics of
Natural Gas In Texas, University of Texas, Bureau of Business Research, Monograph no.
15 (Austin, 1952), 152-189, 228-246; Zimmermann, Conservation, 237-238.
3Texas Almanac and State Industrial Guide, 1978-1979 (Dallas, 1977), 410; Zimmer-
mann, Conservation, 238.
4Ernest O. Thompson, "Flare Gas Wastage in Texas: Steps Taken to Utilize," speech to
American Gas Association, May 1, 1947, pp. 1-2, Railroad Commission Collection (Ar-
chives Division, Texas State Library, Austin).
5Interviews. (Some of the information on which this article is based came from inter-
views conducted by the author. Because it proved impossible to secure informants unless
complete anonymity was promised, these interviews cannot be further identified.)
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981, periodical, 1980/1981; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/m1/342/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.