Davy Crocket, Texas Tea, and the Lone Star State

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on May 13, 2016 in Uncategorised

“You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas”
— Davy Crockett

Can you lead a simpler, richer, freer life here in the Lone Star State?

That depends…

Davy Crockett certainly thought so.

“I must say as to what I have seen of Texas it is the garden spot of the world,” raved the king of the wild frontier. “The best land and the best prospects for health I ever saw, and I do believe it is a fortune to any man to come here. There is a world of country here to settle.”

A resounding endorsement, no doubt. But that was 1836. And today…is not.

We’re in Houston for a few more days, visiting friends and family. Then we’ll head over to Europe for a while.

A wedding…some business…friends…more family…and the chance to inspect some “free” villas in Southern Italy ought to keep us busy for a couple of months, at least.

We’ll let you know how we get on from the road.

In the meantime, we’re getting the “authentic experience” here in The Bayou City. Or at least, we’re getting an authentic experience…

A few days ago, we were invited to attend an oil-and-gas, technology conference, the largest gathering of specialists and industry insiders in the world.

To be sure, your editor is not a drilling engineer. Nor does he possess a vast knowledge about the offshore oil and gas industry.

Heck…we don’t even own a car!

But we’re in Houston, after all, a city that watches the price of Texas tea like a dipsomaniac watches the clock before cocktail hour.

How could we pass up such an offer?

Plus, we notice the hydrocarbon stakes are high right now…for the industry, for the environment and for those who enjoy the comforts of modern, American-style living. (Air conditioners, central heating, rush-hour traffic…that kind of thing.)

So we went to see what all the fuss was about…

A sign outside the venue announced the main attraction in big, bold lettering:

“Welcome to the 2016 Offshore Technology Conference”

Beneath the blazing sun, shuttle buses transported attendees from the (acres of) parking lots to the exhibition center. They came from all over the world to network, trade, shake hands, and ink deals.

The Scandinavians with their clean-cut suits and angular glasses…the West Africans with their gold jewelry and colorful dashiki…the Texans in their cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats…the Brits with their tailored pinstripes and odd penchant for hair gel…

Engineers… geologists… project managers… financiers… industry regulators… suppliers… people with grease on their hands and oil in their veins.

These are folk who dream about drill bits and pressure pumps and seismic charts. Who graduated from the world’s top technical universities. And who command sizable salaries for their expertise.

Big brains. Big money. Big rigs.

In any given year, over the course of the four-day event, no fewer than 90,000 oilmen and women (but mostly men) pass through the grand pavilion.

Inside, hundreds of exhibitors showcased their cutting-edge wares. It was truly an impressive display of some truly impressive technology.

The floor space was packed with giant pieces of machinery designed to work in unfathomable depths and under extreme pressure.

Enormous winches…gigantic pistons…bolts, casing, piping… all of epic size and proportion.

This was the real “stuff.” The world’s hulking machinery…its inner workings…its internal piping…on display.

The ultra-deep water projects—like those that employ spar-platform technology—can operate at an astonishing 11,500 feet below the ocean’s surface.

A couple of decades ago, only a small percentage of the world’s oil needs came from offshore drilling. And even then, it was shallow water (up to 150 feet) activity. Ninety-plus percent still came from the “easy to get” stuff…the kind that bubbles to the surface in the Beverly Hillbillies’ backyard and underfoot in the sands of the Middle East.

Today, one third of total world oil production comes from offshore projects. And, increasingly, those projects are getting into deeper and deeper water.

But deep water drilling requires deep, deep pockets. A single rig runs many hundreds of millions of dollars to construct and maintain. Ensuring safe operating practices—such as is humanly possible given the extreme conditions in which these projects operate—is also incredibly costly. And the price of disaster can be crippling…both for the operator and the surrounding environment.

With the price per barrel having dropped from over $100 just a couple of years ago to around $45 today, those deep pockets are getting shallower. Some are emptied entirely…others turned inside out.

Rigs are coming offline…or going “cool.” Highly qualified engineers are looking for work, and not finding it. Banks that loaned capital to marginal projects (those that require $60-, $70-, and $80-per-barrel prices) are beginning to write off bad debts.

Soon, the banks themselves may need to be written off too.

For an economy that so closely tracks the price of oil…sustained low prices mean a grinding slowdown. It’s not just the oil jobs themselves, either. It’s all the “downstream” support.

Before the oil downturn, Houston had one of the lowest unemployment rates of all major cities in the country. It also had the fastest wage growth…across all income brackets…and the lowest cost of living for a major metropolitan area.

Those metrics are slowly turning.

As for living a simpler, freer, richer life here… Again, that depends on what it is you’re after.

Texas is one of only seven states with the correct level of income tax: zero. (The others are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming.)

The city of Houston still boasts resident companies in all the major performing arts…the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, Houston Symphony Orchestra, and The Alley Theatre.

The weather is tolerable too…if you like humid subtropical. (Fair warning: adult men will need to consider wearing shorts at least part of the year.)

And you can’t beat the Tex-Mex…even when the Texas tea ain’t freely flowin’.

More to come…

Until next time…

T&P Tool Shed

Something to Taco ‘Bout

By the Staff of Truth & Plenty

Aside from Matthew McConaughey and the frozen margarita, Tex-Mex is one of the best things to come out of the Lone Star State. But if you’re trying to lose a couple of pounds, or just trying to eat a little healthier, its medley of various beans, meats, and cheeses will be your undoing. Here’s a delicious ceviche taco recipe that will crush those Tex-Mex cravings without all the calories:

1 pound skinless, firm, white-fish fillets, diced
2 avocados, thinly sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Juice of 3 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
2 scallions, sliced
1½ teaspoons honey
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 small serrano chili pepper, seeded and minced
2 fresno chilies, seeded and sliced (Substitute jalapeño for a milder taste)
10 six-inch corn tortillas

    1. Toss the tomatoes, chilies, cilantro, scallions, lime and lemon juice, and honey in a bowl with a teaspoon of salt. This citrus-based marinade will “cook” the fish over time. Add fish and stir until coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Stir every 20 minutes until fish is soft and opaque.
    2. When your ceviche is ready, heat up your tortillas in a hot, dry (no oil) skillet. Warm the tortillas for about 15 seconds each side or until they start to bubble up. Fill your hot tortillas with fresh avocado slices and your chilled ceviche mix. It’s a refreshing slice of Tex-Mex that’ll cool your taste buds in the hot Texan sun.