In a world clamoring for more oil, a dusty stretch of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico is one of the only places that can deliver. But even with crude above $100 a barrel, producers in the Permian and other U.S. shale basins are holding back.
For most of the past decade, the Permian was an unstoppable drilling machine. Its vast, low-cost reserves have helped turn the United States into a rotating global oil supplier, ready to ramp up production when prices spike or shut down when they crash. Because shale producers have accumulated a backlog of wells that could be tapped in just weeks, a rally in crude was sure to incite a fracking frenzy that would help rebuild global inventories and cool prices.