Carter Collum spent mornings side-by-side with his competitors in the archival rooms of East Texas courthouses, hunting down owners of underground natural gas fields. At night he made house calls, offering payments and royalties for permission to drill.
Mr. Collum worked as a landowner, tracking down oil and gas owners trapped in layers of rock thousands of feet below the earth’s surface and obtaining their signatures, a job about as old as industry. American oil company.
It started around 2006, a few years before the shale boom took off and drove the price of drilling rights in East Texas to over $ 15,000 an acre, down from around $ 250. Successful earthlings, rushing to knock on doors in front of their rivals, earned six-figure incomes.
“It was a bit like the Old West,” said Mr. Collum, 39. His predecessors in the field included former President George W. Bush and Aubrey McClendon, the late fracking pioneer who co-founded Chesapeake Energy Corp.
These days, jobs are drying up. Landowners, after peaking at boom times, face weakened demand for fossil fuels and investor indifference to shale companies after years of poor returns. Instead of oil and gas fields, some landmen secure wind and solar fields, places where the sun shines brightest and the wind blows strongest.