Imagine a place where jobs are plentiful, and the housing market is thriving. A place where even low-playing service jobs come with signing bonuses and other benefits.
Sound too good to be true? No. It’s real, and it’s right here in the U.S.
The scenario described above can be found in Williston, N.D. The secret to their newfound prosperity: oil. The state is drilling at record pace, with oil production doubling from 2008 to 2010. And that’s creating an economic boom in towns such as Williston. People are working, and businesses are hiring.
North Dakota produced 424,000 barrels a day in July. That’s an increase of 86 percent over the same period in 2009, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article titled “U.S. Nears Milestone: Net Fuel Exporter.”
That’s right -- exporter. It may be time to rethink the old image of the United States as nothing more than a consumer of the world’s energy. Newly released data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30, the U.S. imported 689.4 million barrels of everything from gasoline to jet fuel. But during that same time period, it sent abroad 753.4 million barrels.
This is a welcome switch, obviously. “The reversal raises the prospect of the U.S. becoming a major provider of various types of energy to the rest of the world, a status that was once virtually unthinkable,” the Journal points out.
We can thank advanced technology and market forces for these positive trends in our domestic energy picture. Thanks to new rock-fracturing techniques, for example, we’re now pulling hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil from the Bakken formation, a gigantic rock unit that lies under Montana and North Dakota.
How much oil is there in the Bakken? According to energy expert David Kreutzer, the most recent reliable estimate is 24 billion barrels. That’s clearly a lot, but to see how much that really is, consider that the total estimated amount of oil we can recover in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay (where commercial oil drilling has been going on since the 1960s) is 13 billion.
That’s right, almost twice as much. The Bakken is now the most productive onshore oil field discovered in the last half century.
Then there’s the energy that can be pulled from the recently discovered Utica rock formation (mostly in Ohio). Estimates indicate that it contains oil, natural-gas liquids and natural gas equivalent to 25 billion barrels of oil.