New Boom Reshapes Oil World, Rocks North Dakota
Two years ago, America was importing about two thirds of its oil. Today, according to the Energy Information Administration, it imports less than half. And by 2017, investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts the US could be poised to pass Saudi Arabia and overtake Russia as the world's largest oil producer.
Places like Williston are the reason why.
"For many years, they knew that there was oil in that area, but the technology wasn't available to get it out," the town's mayor, Ward Koeser, tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.
But in the last few years, advances in such technologies as "fracking" and horizontal drilling have made, by some estimates, as much as 11 billion barrels of oil available in the Bakken formation under North Dakota and Montana.
"There's oil companies coming from all over the country now." Koeser says.
Williston has skipped the recession entirely. Unemployment there is less than 2 percent. The population, the mayor estimates, has grown from 12,000 to 20,000 in the last four years.
"We actually have probably between 2,000 and 3,000 job openings in Williston right now," Koeser says.
Oil workers like Jake Featheringill are fueling Williston's population growth. He's working as a shophand for Baker Hughes, making enough to support his wife and three children. But with such a sudden population increase, Williston's infrastructure can't keep up.
"When we came up here, we were told housing was tough but not impossible," Featheringill says. He and his wife got lucky and borrowed an RV from a family friend. "We got lucky again and got to park the RV in a place where we were rent-free. Most of the RV spots around here run $1,000 to $1,200."
That's $1,000 a month, just for a parking space. "Is that not amazing?" Featheringill says. "And that's in a 70-mile radius. Just to park your RV."
Image credit: USGS