This month's "For Openers" addresses a handful of things pertinent to the drilling industry.

  • Gasoline prices might be garnering most of the general public's attention, but firms that have to deal with the steel industry are taking an even bigger whack.

  • UL brings its name recognition to the well water market.

  • Can we have your autograph?

Got Iron?

As of press time, there is scant little in the way of good news to report regarding the continuing surge in steel prices. We can say that the increases have been slower of late but that's quite relative. The price index for carbon steel vs. a year ago is up 73.4 percent, while the price index vs. the previous quarter is up 51.5 percent. Stainless steel has been a little quieter. Its price index is up 22.5 percent vs. a year ago and up 11.1 percent vs. last quarter.

Prices have been rising quickly, fueled largely by China's enormous economic development, low inventories of scrap and the dollar's slide against the euro. And suppliers are just about done absorbing the brunt of the financial hit; they've pretty much run out of ways to save money through supply chain and technology advancements. One supplier notes succinctly, "Unfortunately, we must pass along a portion of these costs to achieve sustained profitability and be in a position to reinvest in our business in support of key customers and markets."

In the meantime, it looks like the situation will be with us for a while. Barring something entirely unexpected, conditions aren't going to be changing anytime real soon. And even when they do, it will take at least a couple months for any type of recovery and relief to make its way down to the end-user level.

Geez, the next thing you know, drilling contractors will have to get used to dealing with razor-thin profit margins.

UL into Water Testing

Best known for giving its stamp of approval to electrical gadgets, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has gotten into the well water testing game. UL offers well owners three test packages that range in price from $165 to $500. Water well owners can go to and fill out a questionnaire to determine their needs and order the appropriate kit. Orders include a sampling kit with necessary bottles, easy-to-read instructions and a prepaid return-shipping label. Sampling is as easy as filling the bottles and shipping them back to UL.

UL doesn't sell water treatment products; it is an independent, accredited certifier of water treatment products that meet certain national standards. Your well owner customers might feel more comfortable relying on this well-recognized name for their testing needs. And who doesn't like a comfortable customer? The Web site has lot of consumer information about common well water problems and extensive information on the full range of contaminants. There even is a call center that is staffed by nurses trained in water quality issues.

Check it out - it might provide another way you can be of service to some of your customers.

Subscription Renewals

A good many of you received this month's issue with a subscription renewal card attached. The importance of having that card completed and returned cannot be overstated. It only takes two minutes and it ensures that your free subscription continues for another year.

Legitimate trade magazines participate in an independent auditing process annually to ensure that all of their circulation and subscription paperwork is in order. We devote a great deal of time, effort and expense to maintain the circulation files and provide the auditors with the most up-to-date information possible. Even if none of your information has changed, the auditors want to see a new card. A poor audit result - or worse yet, no audit at all - generally is considered unprofessional. And we won't have that here. That's why if you haven't renewed your free subscription in the past 12 months, you run the risk of being deleted from the files because older records are frowned upon at audit time.

We don't want you to miss a single issue of the drilling industry's best-read magazine; get that card returned today.

One More Time

That earlier quote is a good one - worth repeating: "... pass along ... costs to achieve sustained profitability and be in a position to reinvest in our business in support of key customers and markets."