Houston economists wonder how low the price of oil will go

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- In a city built on the riches of oil, Friday's dip below $40 dollars a barrel meant the heart of the Energy Capital skipped a beat.

"It's a painful, painful, ride," said Casey Sattler, an editor with Energy Intelligence Group. "More and more analysts are lowering where it could go. A number of reports think that it could touch $30 maybe even $27."

Sattler says there is simply more supply than demand around the world. Part of the reason is that in the past few years, the United States has so effectively increased its own production. In the meantime, traditional oil-heavy countries like Saudi Arabia have not decreased output.

However, not everyone in the industry sees the lower prices as a bad thing.

"Different time calls for different perspectives, and they're going to call for different solutions," says Katie Mehnert, a veteran of Shell and BP. "Personally, my response is, why waste a good crisis?"

Mehnert now runs Pink Petro, an advocacy group for women in the oil and gas industry. She says the downturn may force layoffs and retirements. However, it could also spur innovation, and Houston is well positioned to benefit from any new technology.

"It's going to take a very broad approach to problem solving to bring new approach and ideas to the forefront," says Mehnert.

But in the short term, there is no doubt Houston's economy could suffer a hit.

"We are dependent on it, and we do know as activity falls there is possibility for hundreds if not thousands of layoffs," says Sattler. "But, we are at least a little more resilient as we have been."
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