NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I started my reporting career at the Houston Business Journal, during the oil boom of the 1970s.
Booms and busts are natural features of the oil patch. Price attracts supply, over-supply rolls back the price, then order is imposed from downstream by the industry's limited infrastructure.
This has been true since the 19th century. John D. Rockefeller came to control the market by organizing ownership of what was downstream, the transport and refining of the oil. Everybody thinks finding oil or gas makes them rich. But delivering the oil, refining it and getting it to market creates wealth.
Aubrey McClendon did more than anyone to create the present boom.Fracking -- fracturing rock in the path of a horizontal shaft, using water and sand under high pressure -- let McClendon's Chesapeake Energy (CHK - Get Report) find huge quantities of gas in places where it didn't seem to exist, like eastern Pennsylvania. It created North Dakota's Bakken shale oil boom, and found new supply in fields that seemed played out in the traditional oil patch. McClendon leveraged Chesapeake to the boom, using a variety of complex partnerships to gain controlling interests in new plays. But what one oil man could do, all oil men could do. Competition raised prices, the margin for error went down, errors happened as they do, and eventually the price of natural gas rolled over, trapping McClendon's company under enormous capital requirements.
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