Their inconvenience is our gain
By Trent Loos
I so clearly remember my very first trip to North Dakota. It was in 1997 for a Beef Improvement Federation meeting in Dickinson. I absolutely loved the area, the landscape and the people who called the area home. I have just returned home from another trip to the Dickinson area, particularly Williston and Watford City. Things there have changed quite a bit but the basic lay of the land and core group of people are still there tending to land and livestock.
I am sure everyone is aware of the vast openness and remoteness of North Dakota and especially western North Dakota. In a state with a population of 699,628, I doubt that traffic jams are the first thing that come to mind. However, if you are in the Bakken Oil region you best not be in a hurry.
On my drive to Williston, I arrived about 2 a.m. local time. If you think that you could avoid heavy truck traffic after dark, you would be wrong. My last 80 miles were filled with a solid stream of truck lights coming and going. The only chance to pass is when you come to one of the occasional passing lanes they have recently put in.
While most states still struggle with unemployment numbers, North Dakota hardly knows what it is. The state is leading the nation with only 3.3 percent unemployed, and I would venture to guess that those folks simply don’t want to work because even Walmart is starting people at nearly $18 an hour.
To create a picture of what is going on in the Bakken Oil region, let’s look at the most recent numbers put out by the Department of Energy.
“In nine months, oil production in the Bakken rose by 100,000 barrels per day. But it could hit another milestone a lot sooner because of the way drilling and fracking is going in North Dakota.
“May was another recordbreaking month for the Bakken oil play as oil production hit an all-time high of 810,000 barrels per day.
“But the list continues growing to 500 wells waiting to be fracked.”
While I don’t want to go into the science behind fracking right now, the movie “Gasland 2” opened recently in an attempt to cast a shadow of doubt on the safety of fracking. I must tell you in this land of fracking, not one person said that fracking has somehow impacted their life.
Here are some more numbers that will give you a glimpse of how North Dakota currently stacks up.
“In 2001, North Dakota’s GDP per capita was well below the U.S. average, ranking 38th out of 50 states. By 2012, its real GDP per capita was $55,250, more than 29 percent above the national average.
“In 2012, North Dakota reported the highest annual increase in real per capita GDP of any state in the country for the second consecutive year. In 2012, real per capita GDP in North Dakota increased by nearly 11 percent from the previous year, according to statistics released June 6 by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is considerably higher than the national growth rate of less than 2 percent and is more than three times as large as the growth rate in Texas (3.27 percent), the state with the next highest annual growth.”
Keep in mind that this is also a great farming region as well. In fact, the local farmers working closely with North Dakota State University have diversified their farming practices and learned how to grow 22 different crops in the area including peas, lentils and crops that are very well suited to the climate, moisture and soil type.
Not all things are peachy keen when you combine this kind of rapid growth and busy highway activity with the production of food and fuel. Personally, I cannot imagine dealing with the changes that have occurred to this fantastic region of the country that my friends there have endured.
I met a few locals who curse everything that has happened in the past 12 years, but quite honestly the overwhelming majority have the attitude that it is happening, we are producing what people need and we need to adapt.
At the end of the day and the reason I write this piece is because the whole nation should take note and celebrate the daily inconveniences that our rural friends in western Dakota have been forced to incur because we need a reliable domestic supply of both the food and fuel that are produced in this great state. Thanks, North Dakota!
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.