North Dakota Oil And Natural Gas Boom: Open Questions

English: Sunflowers in Traill County, North Da...

Sunflowers in Traill County, North Dakota. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


North Dakota landscape (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

North Dakota is a happening place. I wish I had time to write a full update to my 2009 post on the geography of frugal living in North Dakota, which continues to attract readers every day. Clearly, frugal living is not the central issue in 2012.

Much has happened in the past three years, and I imagine the changes in North Dakota must be fascinating. This week’s news that North Dakotans will vote on whether to eliminate property taxes gives a hint of what’s going on. While most states struggle with unmanageable budgeting problems, and some totter on the edge of insolvency, North Dakota is apparently flush with revenue.

North Dakota’s prosperity seems entirely connected to the booming energy industry. The state has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. I imagine that workers are flocking to the state, and housing must be in short supply.

North Dakota is flat

The Northern Plains: Big sky, flat prairie. It’s easy to forget that people live and work here, too.(Photo credit: Matthew Bietz)

Any comments from folks on the scene in North Dakota would be welcome.  All the positive news raises a few questions:

  • How many of the newcomers will adapt to the harsh North Dakota winters? Conversely, how will the people of the rural and somewhat insular Northern Plains adapt to the influx of newcomers?
  • Are prices rising and shortages developing? How much will wages and prices fluctuate in coming months and years?
  • Could the North Dakota boom be the first part of a boom-and-bust cycle?
  • How will U.S. energy policy develop regarding innovations in oil and natural gas extraction?  And pipelines?
  • Exactly what are the environmental implications of whatever is going on, deep underground in North Dakota? Are adequate precautions being taken, or are corners being cut?
  • How will the new wealth be divided? Will longtime North Dakota residents and landowners be ripped off or forced out? Will workers be paid fairly, or will most of the gains accrue to large energy companies? Will the energy industry take over or buy out North Dakota government and politics?
  • The boom can’t be limited to North Dakota only. What about South Dakota, and Montana? And Canada? Are the Northern Plains in danger of becoming an economic colony of the global oil and gas industry?

Anyone with answers or opinions is welcome to comment.

You want to know more about North Dakota? Of course you do. You can go right to the source.

— John Hayden

Map of North Dakota

Map of North Dakota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Category:U.S. State Population Maps Category:N...

North Dakota state population density map based on Census 2000 data.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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