north dakota oil boom one

North Dakota Oil Boom



series border newcomer
sting nowhere landscape (2)
buck barrel handle (2)
drill deposit tip of the iceberg
surge royalty growing pains
sewer logistics ridiculous
unless oversee labor-hungry
prefab reserves affordable
lodge decent takes the sting out of
rough tumble demographic
dorm wind up hang on (2)
flush inspect dispatcher
crowd flock (2) infrastructure
gusher wild-ride





Tonight we begin a series on the changing landscape of energy in the US, and the consequences of ever increasing development.

Ray Suarez is our guide this week. Tonight he visits the booming economy of western North Dakota where new drilling technologies have opened up massive oil reserves.

In western North Dakota, near the Montana border, there’s so much oil around, it’s almost risky to say it: Boom!

One percent unemployment rate. Heavy traffic in what was once a sleepy town. Nowhere to live. Restaurants that close early because they can’t find enough people to work — at $15 buck an hour.

And others offering signing bonuses to dishwashers and fast food workers.

Geologists say there is a small ocean of oil, hundreds of billions of barrels, trapped underground here in North Dakota.

So…thousands of workers have flocked to Williston to pull it out.

Instant towns rose instead of corn and wheat as Williston joined a new, America energy boom, driving growth in parts of the West.

Just two years ago, the United States was importing two-thirds of its oil. Today imports are down to less than half of US oil needs.

Oil companies have know about these supplies for decades. New technology makes these deposits, known as the Bakkan, profitable to drill.

Lance Langford manages the Bakken for the international energy company, Statoil.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg right now. And now we’re going to be here for many, many years. And once we’re finished drilling these wells, the wells will produce for thirty to forty years.”

For Williston, that means growing pains — and a gusher of cash surging through a town not totally ready for it.

Williston’s population doubled in size in just two years. Suddenly the parking lots are full of cars from all over with job seekers coming from all directions.

Joe Gunderson moved from Montana and says he’s making the best money in his life.

“It’s been good. It’s been really good. I mean anything you want; money’s not really an issue. I mean if you want it, you can just buy it and make it work.”

The word’s out. Men are getting in their cars and trucks and driving to North Dakota.

“It’s easy to find a job here, it’s just what you’re going to get that’s the issue. Within twenty-four hours of being here I’ve got five different job offers, and took one of them.”

Tyler is working as a cook until something opens in the oil fields.

And living in his car.

“It’s the food section down there. That’s the kitchen. Out back that’s toiletries. Essentially what I do is move everything back to the front whenever I want to sleep, and the front to the back whenever I want to drive around or can fit a passenger in. I have my cooler.

I have good camping gear, but there’s no good camping around here — unless I want to pay a ridiculous amount of money.”

“Yeah! Welcome to my home!”

So for now, home is a parking place.

The price of housing comes up again and again, among longtime residents, newcomers and businesses.

Labor-hungry companies have found one solution: workers’ camps, built and operated by outside contractors like Target Logistics.

Workers who can’t find an affordable place, live in a clean, decent room in a pre-fab building, have three big meals a day, and a private shower, all take the sting out of an 80-hour week.

Regional vice-president Travis Kelly oversees accommodation for almost four thousand workers in Williston for housing contractor, Target Logistics.

“I know the general public, when they see one our lodges, they think it’s just a man-camp and these are rough and tumble guys getting in fights all the time.

It’s really not true. The demographic of folks we have staying with us come from all over the country.

And most of them are family guys. They have a wife and kids they are trying to support back at home.

Jeff didn’t expect to wind up running a kitchen in a workers’ camp 1,500 miles from home or living dorm-style without his wife and family.

When the economic crisis hit, he tried to hang on, but eventually had to close his restaurant in Mesa, Arizona.

“My first week here, I didn’t sleep much. But thank god for technology, I’m on the phone every night with Skype and see my kids every day; tell them goodnight. Give them the ole kiss on the phone. It’s not the same, but at least they see my face; I see their faces. I’m able to tell my wife I love her. It’s like looking right at her.”

Trying to manage his city’s wild-ride is mayor Ward Koesser. Thousands of new people crowd the roads, drive up local wages, meaning the local sewer system has to handle thousands more flushes.

“Probably the biggest things we face with is the cost of employees of the city. In other words, we’ve added three policemen last year, we’ve added six policemen this year, three more dispatchers, seven more people in public works, building inspectors, planner, basically down the road we’ve had to add these people.”

Raising the cost of local government by almost $3 million.

And the town has had to borrow the money for personnel and infrastructure like new streets and garbage collection.

The surge in oil royalties and sales taxes is collected by the state, not by Williston.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. There is an oil boom in (western) North Dakota. There is lots of oil in North Dakota. Is this true or false?

2. Has the town of Williston changed or has it always stayed the same?

3. What is the unemployment rate of North Dakota? Is it easy to find work? Are the jobs low or high paying?

4. The new workers come only from the state of North Dakota. Is this correct or wrong?

5. Is it easy to find accommodation in Williston? Is housing cheap or expensive?

6. What do outsiders think about the pre-fabricated lodges? What is the reality?

7. Do all the workers come with their families? How do they cope with the separation?
A. Is this oil boom good, bad, both, in the middle, it depends?

B. Would you like to work in Williston? Would your friends, coworkers or classmates like to live and work in Willston?

C. What do you think will happen to Williston?

D. Does your country extract and export oil, import oil or both?

E. Are there job magnates in your country or continent? What are some job magnets?


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