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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs