Will This Bubble Ever Burst?

Houston wildcatter Bruce Anderson figured he paid his dues in 1986--when crashing oil prices forced him to cut back production, lay off workers, and hang on for dear life. Since then, crude has rebounded nicely. But for Anderson, who looks to natural gas for 40% of his production, this year seems too reminiscent of 1986. This time, though, the bugaboo is gas prices, which have plummeted to their lowest level since 1972. In mid-June, gas-pipeline giant Columbia Gas System Inc. announced the low prices may drive it into Chapter 11, and Anderson is hunkering down. "It's a nightmare," he says.

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