Facing the impact of the Bakken oil boom

oil drilling rigHere’s the fourth installment in a series of opinion pieces by Clay Jenkinson, which is quite interesting and one of the more balanced articles I’ve read on the North Dakota oil boom, it’s impact on the people and environment, and the best practices going forward to ensure that the negative repercussions are minimized as much as possible.

He begins by describing one of the main impediments to honest debate about the Bakken, and that’s the polarizing effect it seems to have.

Over the past year I have discovered the hard way that almost anything I write about the Bakken Oil boom disappoints or offends (or outrages!) some percentage of my readers at both ends of the political spectrum, pro-boom and anti-boom, more carbon and post-carbon, “drill, baby, drill” and “not in my back yard.” The only thing I can do, therefore, is to tell the truth as I see it, speak both from the head and the heart, and freely acknowledge in advance that I am probably full of beans. I take comfort in knowing that my readership is small and my influence negligible.

The polarization can be seen in all kinds of discussions of the Bakken, which is understandable considering the pace of growth, and impact it’s having on the region. That’s not even mentioning the issue of fracking itself, which is highly controversial.

However, what we’re actually witnessing in the Bakken is basically the effects of petroleum production coming home to an area of the country that hasn’t seen much development in the past. While it’s certainly arguable that fracking has more of an environmental impact that traditional oil drilling, the fact is that much of the oil we rely on to run our civilization comes with huge environmental degradation, human repression, and social injustice. Just ask indigenous people in Ecuador, residents in the Caspian Sea region, or the people of Saudi Arabia who live in a police state run by a monarchy.

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