Striking it rich in North Dakota | Don Brunell

In 1951, if farmer Henry Bakken had told you there was oil under his prairie land in Williston, N.D., you’d have thought he was a few bricks short of a load.

 

In 1951, if farmer Henry Bakken had told you there was oil under his prairie land in Williston, N.D., you’d have thought he was a few bricks short of a load.

As it turns out, he was right.

North Dakota’s economy is going gangbusters, thanks to millions of barrels of oil being recovered from what today is known as the Bakken formation.

The Bakken formation stretches about 200,000 square miles beneath Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan. The U.S. portion of the Bakken is estimated to hold up to 10 billion barrels of oil.

The oil is being recovered with a technique that drills down 10,000 to 15,000 feet — thousands of feet past the aquifer layer — then goes horizontally and uses hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to break up the hydrocarbon formations. Through this method, they are able to protect aquifers and safely recover millions of barrels of oil that earlier drilling methods couldn’t reach.

Today, North Dakota is the second biggest oil producer in the U.S. after Texas. Its production is fast approaching that of OPEC-member Qatar, which produced 770,000 barrels per day in August. By 2020, Bakken production is expected to almost double.

Because of the oil boom, North Dakota’s unemployment rate has dropped to 3 percent and the state’s budget surplus has mushroomed to $1.6 billion — equal to almost 40 percent of the general fund. And that doesn’t count another $1.9 billion tucked away in three restricted state funds and an additional $1 billion set aside for public works projects and property tax cuts.

In fact, Bruce Gjovig, founder of the Center for Innovation at the University of North Dakota, estimates that oil from the Bakken Basin is creating 2,000 millionaires a year.

Average income in Mountrail County, the hub of the North Dakota oil boom, roughly doubled in five years to $52,027 per person in 2010, ranking it among the richest 100 U.S. counties, up there with New York and Marin, Calif.

So, while our nation’s politicians argue about how to help 23 million unemployed and underemployed Americans and stop a national debt clock that’s spinning like a runaway Ferris wheel, North Dakota is creating family wage jobs, paying its bills and socking away savings in the bank.

The success in North Dakota could be repeated in many other states. We have the technology and know-how to develop new energy resources in an environmentally responsible way.

Sadly, that’s not happening.

Stalled energy projects have already cost the economy $1.1 trillion and nearly two million jobs, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Project No Project study.

Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, estimates that one million jobs could be created in the oil and gas industry alone if projects could be permitted. Because of fracking, the U.S. now has more than a 200-year supply of crude oil and 120 years of natural gas.

The American Petroleum Institute says that with the right government policies, we could increase U.S. oil and natural gas production 76 percent by 2030, generate more than 1.4 million new jobs and produce $800 billion in additional tax revenue.

People in North Dakota are safely developing their energy resources. As a result, they have low unemployment and money for schools and universities, roads and bridges and fire and police protection. They have the resources to fund assistance for the truly needy, and for other government services.

Sixty years ago at Henry Bakken’s farm, people failed to realize the astounding bounty that lay far beneath the surface. With so much of our economy tied to energy production, will we make that same mistake again?


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Business

The Moe Vegan food truck serves meals at the city of Kent’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 21, 2020. Sound Publishing file photo
King County fire marshals offer regulatory relief to food trucks

39 fire authorities have reportedly agreed to standardize fire codes and inspections.

Don Brunell
Unemployment insurance intended as a bridge between jobs | Brunell

It shouldn’t be an incentive to stay jobless.

From left to right: Peggy Wenham, Toby Wenham and Sheree Schmidt stand for a picture outside Sweet Necessities on Griffin Avenue. Photo by Alex Bruell
For sale: Enumclaw candy shop Sweet Necessities looks for a new owner

Co-owner Toby Wenham is joining his wife Peggy in retirement from their twin Enumclaw businesses

Don Brunell
Good news from Hanford | Brunell

If Washington is going to reduce CO2 emissions, then it has to go nuclear.

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district is shown on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Energy and base metals help lift TSX in early trading, U.S. markets down

TORONTO — The energy and base metal sectors helped lift Canada’s main… Continue reading

Teago Manoharan on March 16 holds open the door to the Buckley Kitchen, a commissary kitchen he started in 2019 that hosts a number of bakers and chefs who couldn't otherwise afford a space to cook. Photo by Alex Bruell
Buckley Bakery builds on bold businessman’s big business plan

Teago Manoharan wants to bring a bakery to Buckley. And an app. And a restaurant. And classes.

Cash Cards Unlimited partners, left: Nick Nugwynne, right: Cassius Marsh (photo credit: Cash Cards Unlimited)
Former Seahawks player Cassius Marsh cashes in on trading cards

Marsh and his friend open physical and online trading card store as collectibles boom amid pandemic.

Teaser
First large-scale, human composting facility in the world will open in Auburn

“It’s what nature meant us to do. We just do it faster.”

Don Brunell
Keeping America’s semiconductor edge is paramount | Brunell

Semiconductors are among the U.S.’s top five exports.

Melissa Hyce is the proud owner of the new Cole Street business, Urban Junktion. Photo by Ray Miller-Still
Urban Junktion opens on Cole Street

The new business doesn’t just want to sell vintage home decor, but also teach you how to make some yourself.

Customers of the Buckley Plateau Market line up in an alley way to receive their orders. Photo courtesy Sean Shands
Plateau farmers, food producers open REKO market in Buckley

REKO markets are all about getting food fresh from the farm to your table.