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North Dakota’s Oil and Fracking Boom

2013 January 21
by Shared by Steve Rust

Energy independence has been a hot button issue of late, gaining attention from both the political left and right. For the left, energy independence signals a recognition of climate change and our society’s addiction to oil. For the right, it signals a move away from having our economy and military policy subjected to the whims of political and religious turmoil in the Middle East. As a result, energy production in the United States has ramped up dramatically over the past few years, a fact made visible in films like Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land and by the rows upon rows of 200+ foot tall wind turbine towers dotting the landscape in places like the Columbia Gorge in Oregon and Snake River Plain in Idaho. North Dakota, in particular, has become a hub of activity as the relatively new technology of fracking has opened up new access to oil and natural gas. North Dakota’s economy is booming but at what cost?

In an innovative use of interactive media, independent producer Todd Melby has teamed up with Prairie Public, Zeega, and AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio, Incorporated to produce BLACK GOLD BOOM, an interactive video website in which viewers can navigate a series of documentaries on the changes occurring to the landscape, economy, and culture of North Dakota. Particularly disturbing is the way in which young women, who have been lured to work in service industry jobs, are being treated by workers in bars, restaurants, and other social gathering points. Rather than taking sides, however, BLACK GOLD BOOM offers those involved in the industry the chance to tell their stories and explain why they are moving to North Dakota in droves to exploit the oil/gas rush before it is tapped out.

To get a sense of the scale at which the oil/gas industry is operating in North Dakota at the present moment, check out this image of the ‘Kuwait of the West’ from a recent blog post entitled “A Mysterious Patch Of Light Shows Up In The North Dakota Dark” by Robert Krulwich, National Public Radio correspondent.


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