News / USA

Oil Boom Transforming Rural North Dakota

Oil Boom Transforming Rural North Dakotai
X
Kane Farabaugh
May 30, 2014 9:50 PM
A relatively new drilling technology that allows oil to be extracted from the earth through a process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has brought a flood of development to rural towns situated on the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and Montana. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the development brings risks and rewards.
Kane Farabaugh
A relatively new drilling technology that allows oil to be extracted from the earth through a process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has brought a flood of development to rural towns situated on the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and Montana. The development brings risks and rewards.

Six years ago this once dark spot of the United States in western North Dakota and eastern Montana was not noticeable from space, but it is now visible from the International Space Station,  thanks to the glow of thousands of intense flames in the oil fields fueling a red hot energy boom in the United States.

“The oil and the gas industry is the 800 pound gorilla in the room," said Nancy Hodur.

New technology that allows drilling deep into shale deposits is transforming North Dakota.  The oil boom has increased activity in once sleepy towns like Williston.  In 2000 the state population was about 620,000.  North Dakota State University Professor Nancy Hodur says that number is now closer to 730,000.

 “It is a record high.  It has never been bigger," she said.

And the boom continues to create jobs.  

 “We do not have as many people as we need to fill those jobs, and we have got high participation in the workforce," said Hodur.

And not just in the oil fields.  Businesses are having a hard time filling vacancies ranging from driving trucks to making food in the growing number of restaurants.

Restaurant owner Cam Holt says there is also a shortage of homes and apartments, which has created sky-high rent prices.

 “We have got to house probably 80 to 90 percent of the people that walk through the door here, looking for a job, need a place to live.  At $1,500 a bedroom, even at the rates we are paying people, it is still unaffordable.  It does not make sense for them," said Holt.

North Dakota has one of the lowest unemployment and fastest growing income rates in the country.  But a report by the labor organization AFL-CIO says it is also one of the most dangerous places to work, with a death rate five times higher than the national average.  Most of those fatalities happen in the fields of construction, mining and oil extraction.

Despite the danger, people continue to look for work in Williston, where methods used to extract oil from Bakken continue to change.

“Now we are seeing the technology is allowing us to put the wells tighter, closer together without affecting the performance of the wells.  So the ecology, technology, and economics is evolving," said Dean Bangsund.

North Dakota State University economist Dean Bangsund says it is too early to determine the oil boom's economic and environmental legacy.

“This is a relatively new technology.  It is being adjusted.  It is undergoing through tweaks and refinements as we speak.  It is dealing with a portion of geology the state has not dealt with.  It is much larger and much broader in context," he said.

It appears the promise of oil extraction in North Dakota will extend into the foreseeable future and continue to drive demand for a workforce willing to accept the risks and rewards.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid