The oil rush in North Dakota has it all. Billions of dollars. Thousands of jobs. "Grapes of Wrath"-like journeys from all across America as people leave desperate situations, hoping for a fresh start. Big business shoe-horning itself into small-town America.
On the positive side, many who have made the trip to places like Williston, N.D., have come away with a job and renewed optimism for the future.
On the negative side, the incredible growth is not without its pains — inadequate housing and crime , to name two emerging concerns. But from public officials to oil executives, there is a tremendous effort to manage it all.
However, two things would be unmanageable and have the potential to make the boom go bust almost immediately.
The first, oil prices, is simple. The second, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is less so.
Right now, oil needs to be right around $60 a barrel to make the process profitable in the huge rock formation called the Bakken.
There is a huge operating cost to drill down two miles and then two more miles laterally. In addition to the trucking, employment and infrastructure costs, the process of fracking is both costly and controversial.
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