Anti-fracking activists are resorting to a curious line of argument in their zeal to ban natural resource recovery through hydraulic fracturing: that rural communities are better off with economic stagnation than the ‘harms’ of abundant jobs and a vibrant economy.
In an Associated Press story published Friday, Sierra Club spokesperson Wayde Schafer called the North Dakota oil boom a “nightmare.” With the advent of new fracking and directional drilling technologies a decade ago, North Dakota’s shale oil deposits fueled unprecedented economic growth in the state. Even during the Great Recession, unemployment never topped 4.3 percent in the state. Unemployment currently stands at 3.0 percent.
American Gothic, by Grant Wood. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
“There are hundreds more jobs than takers in the heart of North Dakota’s oil patch,” the Associated Press reports.
Young workers without a college degree can earn over $100,000 per year in the oil fields. Job Service North Dakota spokesperson Phil Davis told the Associated Press oil production is creating jobs throughout the economy. In Williston, the heart of North Dakota oil country, “Every business on Main Street needs staff,” says Davis.
North Dakotans are quite pleased with the benefits of energy production, fracking, and the pro-fracking Republican Party. Republicans outnumber Democrats by a greater than four-to-one margin in the State Senate (38-9) and by a greater than six-to-one margin in the House of Representatives (81-13). Even the few Democrats elected to higher office, like U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, are decidedly pro-fracking.
Despite North Dakotans showing through their votes that they are ecstatic with the benefits of fracking, the San Francisco-based Sierra Club and the anti-fracking left engage in twisted pretzel logic attempting to spin the fracking economy as a nightmare. According to CNBC, all the high-paying jobs and dramatic rise in living standards means North Dakotans are being “crushed by truck traffic, plagued by lagging infrastructure, and shocked by a surge in violent crimes.”
Of course, a vibrant, expanding economy will always generate more truck traffic. A growing population will create more acts of charity as well as more acts of crime. And infrastructure always needs to be expanded and updated when people are using them more. These are small prices to be paid for rising living standards, and Norther Dakotans are proving with their votes that they are happy to meet these modest challenges that accompany economic opportunity.
Despite proof positive in North Dakota and other states that communities appreciate the benefits of fracking wealth and economic opportunity, the Sierra Club is not alone claiming a vibrant economy and rising living standards are bad for rural America. In a paper attempting to justify the ban on fracking in New York State, New York State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker – a Bronx native – argues “community impacts” are one of the factors justifying the ban. Zucker defines these impacts as “increased vehicle traffic, road damage, noise, odor complaints, increased demand for housing and medical care, and stress.”
It is easy for Bronx natives who were educated and who spent most of their careers in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Washington DC, to tell the rural communities they occasionally drive through that they are better off being poor and without economic opportunity. The people who actually live there feel differently.
[This article first appeared at Forbes.com.]