The North Dakota Oil Boom

I recently saw Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land — that Matt Damon/John Krasinksi environmental/frakking movie — and thought it was much better than I anticipated. Seriously. I was expecting it to be shamelessly pro-environment, but it was more nuanced than that.

The oil and natural gas boom in America is happening in places that need the money, but how much money is worth destroying your community and the land you own?

It’s worth Netflixing, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

soth-nodak-oilAnyway, following that bit of fiction is this long piece on the oil boom happening right now in North Dakota.

North Dakota has had oil booms before but never one so big, never one that rivaled the land rush precipitated more than a century ago by the transcontinental railroads, never one that so radically changed the subtext of the Dakota frontier from the Bitter Past That Was to the Better Future That May Yet Be.

It’s hard to think of what oil hasn’t done to life in the small communities of western North Dakota, good and bad. It has minted millionaires, paid off mortgages, created businesses; it has raised rents, stressed roads, vexed planners and overwhelmed schools; it has polluted streams, spoiled fields and boosted crime. It has confounded kids running lemonade stands: 50 cents a cup but your customer has only hundreds in his payday wallet. Oil has financed multimillion-dollar recreation centers and new hospital wings. It has fitted highways with passing lanes and rumble strips. It has forced McDonald’s to offer bonuses and brought job seekers from all over the country — truck drivers, frack hands, pipe fitters, teachers, manicurists, strippers. It has ginned up an unreleased reality show called “Boomtown Girls,” which follows the lives of “five bold and brave sisters” in the formerly drowsy farm center of Williston, N.D. Williston, whose population has tripled in the past 10 years, lies in the middle of the 150,000-square-mile Williston Basin, a depression in the crust of the earth that geologists now believe contains one of the largest oil fields in the world.

The accompanying photo essay by Alex Soth is fantastic. [via digg]

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