Texas Plains Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program


Port Arthur refinery marker
Port Arthur refinery marker


The oil and gas industry has dominated the Texas economy and its landscape for over a century, beginning with the 1901 Spindletop near Beaumont, the first major gusher that signaled the birth of the modern oil age. Refineries followed, quickly transforming the Gulf Coast region and its communities into a center of oil and gas production for the state and, ultimately, the nation. The opening of the Houston Ship Channel in 1914 aided in the transformation by attracting more refineries to the region after the end of World War l. The Texas Gulf Coast (and the rest of Texas for that matter) has never been the same since. Today, our petroleum industry operates on a global scale, participating in the world-wide oil and gas economy that influences political and cultural relationships across the planet.

Despite its relatively arid landscape, Texas is a hydro-electric power producer as well although it only accounts for about 1% of the state’s energy. Power production percentages from hydroelectric dams like Denison Dam in North Texas and those along the Highland Lakes chain in the Hill Country are subject to an ever-present problem in the state - drought. But in an age of growing concerns over climate change, Texas has also taken a lead in seeking out cleaner alternatives including wind energy. To date, Texas leads the nation in wind power, a domination that pales somewhat when wind power accounts for less than 10% of all electricity generate in the state. But it’s a start, the best the country has so far, and like the nation’s oil boom, it begins here in Texas.

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Read more about the Texas oil and gas industry in the Handbook of Texas Online.