The Bakken boom towns

While the game-changing oil boom in North Dakota is undoubtedly one of the biggest energy stories of the decade, it’s also fundamentally a story about change.

Part of the appeal of life in the rural Great Plains is solitude and constancy. Lack of economic opportunity and isolation are some of the downsides. North Dakota is rapidly gaining more of the latter and losing the former. When a rural area changes this quickly, tensions are bound to erupt.

This week’s episode of EnergyNOW includes a segment on Williston, North Dakota, the closest “big city” to the heart of the oil boom, where the population has already doubled, hotels are booked solid, and fast-food restaurants are having to bring in foreign students to man the counters.

The Minot Daily News also found similar growing pains in the small town of Alexander, with an official population of 200 people and a steady stream of as many as 8,000 trucks traveling through each day going to and from the oil fields.

The comment thread on last week’s “Bakken from space” post is starting to attract some North Dakota residents, and it’s clear that not everyone is happy with the pace of change. For instance:

“ND is going to burn through the oil fast, a few companies will make loads of money, and the folk who were there AND the folks who moved there will be left in the dust when the oil runs out.”

“They should take our way of life into account. All the state and local officials care about is how we are finally the shining star of the US.”

“Unfortuately, I’ll probably never see this town the way it was again, which is kind of a touchy subject that doesn’t get brought up very much.”

“Growing pains are always hard. Be involved in your communities to make possitive changes instead of whining about “the way things used to be” or maybe you want to return to horse and buggy days too?”

At a minimum, “progress” appears to be in the eye (or, more specifically, the bank account) of the beholder. What are your thoughts?

2 thoughts on “The Bakken boom towns

  1. “Progress” would be nice if it was financially a benefit to more than just a few of the population. The oil companies benefit the most and when the oil is depleted they leave everyone else in the dust when they leave, as one person said. Same could be said for any area of the country, including the coal mining that was once the main source of income for a lot of people in Southern Colorado. Boom towns come and they go. Sad but true.

  2. The midwest wind industry prefers the same extraction business model used by the oil and gas industry . Locals live with the effects and profit leaves the local economy , so I’m not suprised to see opposition to wind energy start to grow in this country , it is disappointing to see that utlity scale green energy developers don’t seem to treat local citizens any better than the polluting, greenhouse gas emiting industry they wish to replace . I’m very pro wind, but it appears we are not going to learn from past mistakes as we adopt clean technologies .