• SLIDESHOW Hear from Texans affected by the energy economy

  • Terri Johnson, a high school teacher, recently moved to Karnes County from Austin with her husband to work at a ranch run by his parents, who suddenly became wealthy thanks to their mineral rights. “My husband runs the ranch, and they give him a salary, and I come here and work,” she said. “Because of their money, they’ve made a lot of things easier.”

  • Jeff Allen is the maintenance director for Karnes City ISD. “For some it’s great, but for others, it’s actually hard," he said of the boom. "The wage rates for competing with an oilfield job, you can’t find people to work. Otherwise, a lot more money is in the area, so we’re getting more improvements."

  • Yvonne Lopez, originally from the Karnes County town of Runge, started working at the local H-E-B after moving here to join her mother. The biggest changes she's noticed? “All the grocery stores, and just hotels."

  • Jerry Medina, originally from nearby Runge, moved to Karnes City three years ago. He has spent 15 years in the oil industry and currently works for an oilfield safety firm. The influx of new jobs has been "a plus for all the families out here," he said. "I don’t think they complain."

  • Burke Braun, who teaches physical education and coaches girls basketball, track and volleyball at the local junior high, grew up in Kenedy, just four miles down the road. He said the boom has torn up land and caused more traffic deaths, but also presented huge opportunities. "All these farmers and ranchers who were dead broke and struggled their whole lives, it’s very beneficial to them," he said.

  • Lance Rhodes, the owner of Rhodes Funeral Home, has always lived in Karnes City, where people now have more money to spend on funerals. “Right before this happened, I would say this place was oppressed," he said. "People were about to lose business, lose property."

  • Vanessa Pawelek, the junior high principal, lived in nearby Falls City for eight years and recently moved back to the area. “The biggest change I’ve seen is in the landscape,” she said. "The beautiful fields were not the same, but the opportunities it brought were so many for the people. It’s a trade-off that you make."

  • Alyssa Perez, who previously lived in nearby Runge, moved back to the area in 2012. She came with her husband, who found work in the oilfields after struggling to get a job in his field out of college. "We were able to get a house, we were able to get him a truck," she said. "The things that we didn’t know how long it would take us to get, we were able to get a little bit faster.”

  • After Laverne Essoufi's husband was laid off from his previous job, the couple moved to Karnes City, where she grew up. They have some oil leases, which supplement their income. She says the increased traffic has made roads more dangerous, but that the situation is improving. "They have wrecks every now and then, but when it first started, people were dying like every day.”

For Shale Residents, Boom is a "Blessing and a Sadness"

What’s it like to live in Texas’ biggest oil-producing county? We attended a Friday night football game in Karnes City to find out how life has changed for a once-sleepy and impoverished county that has exploded with growth and wealth.

The fans — oilfield workers, teachers, a funeral home director and others — described a combination of challenges and opportunities: deadly roads, new job offers, transformed landscapes and growing economies.

Karnes County

Karnes County by the Numbers

2000 2010 2013
Population 15,446 14,824 15,081
2000 2010
Households with incomes above $200,000 Less than 1% 2% - 5%
Oil production (barrels) 1.9M 40M
Natural gas production (cubic feet) 17B 65B
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Texas Railroad Commission