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When the Reagan administration deregulated oil prices on Jan. 28, it forecast a flurry of drilling activity -- and hit the mark. US oil and gas industries set a record during the first half of 1981, sinking 35,581 new wells -- a 21.6 percent increase over the same period last year. Wildcat and exploratory drilling were especially strong. Exploratory drilling increased 30 percent, representing the "most significant" increase in years, says the Petroleum Information Corporation.

But a drilled well isn't necessarily a producing one. Of the "wildcat" wells sunk during the first half of this year, only 18.7 percet struck oil or gas.m

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