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.