walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Feed
Features
Reviews
Podcast
(Black) Gold Rush America

Via Meadia has been keeping track of the fracking revolution, which has turned America’s shale- and gas-rich regions into 21st-century gold rush territories. Brown energy is the gift that keeps on giving, and it is fast reversing the economic and demographic decline that had been strangling places like South Dakota and Kansas.

The jobs are pouring in not just for oil workers, but across all sectors of the local economy. Savvy entrepreneurs are buying up properties—homes, trailers, former banks—and leasing them to oil workers in need of housing. Harper County, Kansas, population 6,200, created 500 new jobs this past year and is witnessing its first population increase in a century. New shopping centers are being erected, motels are bursting at the seams, and old buildings are being renovated. And like the gold rushes and oil booms of past centuries, this economic revival is bringing with it a surge in bar fights, thefts, and traffic.

The average oil jobs salary $100,000 per year. High school graduates are making an average of $60,000. Sandridge Energy, the biggest driller in Kansas, is hitting oil in 100 percent of its test wells, and plans to drill 130 new wells before the end of the year. It estimates that there are 5 billion barrels of oil in the area. It plans to be drilling in Kansas for at least the next 15 years.

So far, brown jobs still rule. The same can’t be said for the adolescent green variety.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • thibaud

    This is indeed great news. Unlike Mr. Mead’s favored unicorn of one- or two-person timewaster-creating startups, O&G is an industry that actually does have a major stimulative impact on the overall economy and that actually will make a dent in the nation’s unemployment rate.

    Shame on the Democrats for dragging their feet or even standing in the way, as they’ve done in California until just a few months ago, of horizontal drilling and unconventional nat gas extraction.

  • http://www.capitaljunkacar.com billy

    Is it called the black gold rush because of africans.?

  • Kenny

    Please, Mr. Mead.

    Do you actually expect kiddies with a newly minted diplomas in some useless major stoop to get their hands dirty in the gas fields or a factory?

    Perish the thought. They instead got their hearts set on snagging a government job — just like our illustrious president and his wife told them to do.

    In that way, they can use their ‘education’ to run other people’s lives and thereby change the world — all with tenure.

  • http://inthisdimension.com alex scipio

    “pre-adolescent” at best… more often “infantile” … green “jobs.”

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    The Humano-Centric ecology (The Mantric) which now contains many thousands of species, is mother nature’s greatest achievement.

  • wanderer

    “It plans to be drilling in Kansas for at least the next 15 years.”

    Indeed, because with shale oil, like shale gas, production drops precipitously after the first year instead of sustaining production for years as with conventional oil and gas.

    That we hype the exploitation of such a marginal, high-cost resource is a clear indication of exactly where on Hubbert’s Peak we are.

    Hint: not in a good part of it.

  • Kris

    wanderer@6: “That we hype the exploitation of such a marginal, high-cost resource is a clear indication of exactly where on Hubbert’s Peak we are.”

    Or it might be an indication of the power of the Green lobby, which is throttling the exploitation of new “conventional” sources.

  • wanderer

    “Or it might be an indication of the power of the Green lobby, which is throttling the exploitation of new “conventional” sources.”

    Dream on. Cantarell is declining. North Sea is declining. Burghan is declining. And though the Saudis won’t admit it up front, the things they are doing to Ghawar shows that it, the great granddaddy of all oil fields, is declining.

    And none of this is due to “the green lobby”

    It’s just what oil fields do.

  • Kris

    Kenny@3: “They instead got their hearts set on snagging a government job … to run other people’s lives”

    Not only that, but one common “Blue” proposal for student loan reform is that college graduates who go into “public service” would have their loans forgiven. It is not that words fail me with regard to this proposal, but that they seem to me useless.

  • thibaud

    Wanderer – fair point, but the larger and more important point is that expanded shale/unconventional gas exploitation buys us TIME with which to improve the efficiency of non-fossil fuels.

    A few decades from now, we’ll be able to transition to renewables without cratering the economy.

  • wanderer

    Thibaud,

    “A few decades from now, we’ll be able to transition to renewables without cratering the economy.”

    Um, if you haven’t noticed, the economy is cratering now, and a significant part of the reason is the cost of keeping global crude production where it is. The only thing that seems to moderate the price of oil is a major financial collapse, of which we are about to have another example.

    And the instant the global economy shows signs of life again, back up goes the oil price.

    Repeat as needed…

  • deve

    On the sand mining side needed for frack shale wells neighboring property owners property rights are not being respected. If you can’t sell your home because of the sand mining to anyone who would want to live next to a mine and you can’t get your local government – who are in bed with the mining companys- to give you property protection plans the money you earned for the last 30 years at your job to pay for your home is lost. The Constitution is there to protect private property and is being ingnored for opportunity and propoganda.

  • Silly Wabbit

    Once again thank you for the wonderful blog and for this great blog post.

    The author seems to suggest that there is some type of competition between “Green” jobs and “brown” jobs (in this case, jobs in the natural gas industry).

    I’m not sure why the author believes that this is the case. Both green energy (solar, wind, geothermal etc.) and natural gas have increased markedly over the last several years. If there was some type of trade-off between the two this would be impossible. This does not appear to be the case.

    I will cautiously suggest that there is no reason why we cannot 1) use more natural gas instead of coal and 2) grow the renewable or “green” energy sector.

    Many parts of the country have little to no natural gas (or else too many people live on top of it) so it is unlikely that natural gas will create and employment boom there the way it does in some rural areas. Similarly, other parts of the country can build robust renewable energy sectors. Some parts of the country have experienced employment growth in the renewable sector just as others have in the natural gas sector.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2014 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service