The 98th Meridian in Texas and Western American History
When we think about a meridian, if we think about meridians at all, we picture an imaginary line on a map with no significance that can be seen with the naked eye. But the 98th meridian is different, according to noted Texas historian Walter Prescott Webb and his first book, The Great Plains, published in 1931. The 98th meridian, which runs through the heart of Texas, is the dividing line between east and west, where everything changes. The Great Plains, which begin at this demarcation, are different. They are semiarid (rainfall generally less than 20 inches per year), flat and treeless. Modes of life that worked for settlers east of that line did not work for those moving west.
It would be well worth one’s time to read Webb’s works in order to gain a better understanding of Texas and Western American history. His writings were well-respected in the mid-20th century, but after his death in 1963 they became less so. This decline in prominence, starting in the late 1970s, could be ascribed to the beginnings of political correctness infiltrating the intellectual and opinion-making classes. Current-day Texans will find his writings on Texas water problems very prescient.
Introducing the 98th Meridian Foundation: A New Frontier in Solving Texas Issues
After leaving office, I still wanted to be involved in the important issues I dealt with while on the Railroad Commission of Texas. I decided to set up a nonprofit organization to study, educate and solve issues. These issues all seemed to fall within three general areas: water, land and energy. They are of great importance to all Texans (and all people), our economy and, indeed, life itself.
I have named this new nonprofit organization the 98th Meridian Foundation. Just as the 98th meridian represents a dividing line where the landscape changes, it is my intention that the 98th Meridian Foundation represents a new frontier of thinking about how to solve the problems surrounding these issues in bold, innovative ways.
Land, Water, and Energy: The Three Legs Holding Up the Metaphorical Stool of Texas Life
Because of the close nexus of these issues, we must examine how potential solutions affect land, water and energy production individually and collectively. Land, water and energy are the three legs holding up the metaphorical stool of Texas life, and we must see that all three legs are strong and in good repair. If I had to define the essence of Texas in three words, I don’t think that I could do any better than land, water and energy.
The 98th Meridian Foundation is dedicated to working on solutions to problems that take into account the big picture and attempt to preserve and improve what makes Texas great. The foundation will approach problems with a long-term vision, looking through a free market-oriented lens in an attempt to strengthen the traditional communities of Texas. One of our first areas of special emphasis will be the rural communities of Texas.
About the author: David Porter has served as a Railroad Commissioner (2011–17) and Chairman (2015–16), as well as Vice Chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (2016). Prior to service on the Commission, Porter spent 30 years in Midland, Texas, as a CPA working with oil and gas producers, service companies and royalty owners. Since leaving the Commission, Porter works as a consultant for oil and gas companies. He also serves as Chairman of the 98th Meridian Foundation, a nonprofit concerned with water, energy and land issues.