Go Waste, Young Woman.

February 22, 2014

A young woman, lured to North Dakota for a truck-driving job in the oil industry, shares her agonizing existence in an isolated boomtown.

The jobs being promised as part of America’s oil boom, and the proposed Keystone pipeline, are boom and bust jobs. They are not consistent with strong, steady economies, with cohesive communities, with healthy family ties, – those things that “conservatives” – who promote the hydrocarbon boom –  used to hold dear.


SIDNEY, Mont. — One cold morning last year, a math teacher jogging through her hometown in eastern Montana was abducted, strangled and buried in a shallow grave. Charged in her death were two drifters from Colorado, drawn to the region by the allure of easy money in the oil fields.

One hundred fifty miles away, in a bustling oil town in North Dakota, a 30-year-old man disappeared one afternoon from the street where he had been putting in water and sewer pipes, leaving behind a lunchbox with his paycheck inside and a family grasping for answers. After months of searching, his mother said she now believes her son is gone, buried somewhere on the high plain.

Stories like these, once rare, have become as common as drilling rigs in rural towns at the heart of one of the nation’s richest oil booms. Crime has soared as thousands of workers and rivers of cash have flowed into towns, straining police departments and shattering residents’ sense of safety.

“It just feels like the modern-day Wild West,” said Sgt. Kylan Klauzer, an investigator in Dickinson, in western North Dakota. The Dickinson police handled 41 violent crimes last year, up from seven only five years ago.

To the police and residents, the violence shows how a modern-day gold rush is transforming the rolling plains and farm towns where people once fretted about a population drain. Today, four-story chain hotels are rising, and small apartments rent for $2,000 a month. Two-lane roads are jammed with tractor-trailers. Fast-food restaurants offer $300 signing bonuses for new employees, and jobs as gas station attendants can pay $50,000 a year. Workers flush with cash are snapping up A.T.V.s, and hotel menus offer crab and artichoke dip and bacon-wrapped dates.

You think this is just somewhere in Dakota?
This is what they have in mind for all of America, and the whole world, as the rush to extract every last bit of hydrocarbons, from every last square inch of land.
Think Appalachia. This is what an extractive economy looks like. Its what the fossil fuel barons want America, and the whole world, to look like.


21 Responses to “Go Waste, Young Woman.”

  1. Need an American Galeano to write “Open Veins of North Dakota.”

  2. Until transport is electrified, they’ll be doing this for the oil.

    Unless electricity is de-carbonized, they’ll be drilling for gas… and that will still be true if gas is required as the backup fuel for anything else.  ANYTHING else.

    Let’s get the Dakotas back to producing beef, not extracting hundreds-of-millions-of-years buried carbon.

  3. andrewfez Says:

    See that dark blue inside WV on the WV/KY boarder? That is partly Mingo County which has been a hotbed for corruption for at least the last 50 years. Word on the street (through one of my lawyer friends that has the pleasure of visiting Williamson in Mingo for the occasional job) is that a particular judge is a millionaire from taking bribes from an organized crime component headed by equally wealthy thugs in the area. He takes bribes; cases are resolved in favor of the thugs or anybody else with deep pockets. Also in Mingo, as there are so little jobs, a lawyer/doctor team conspire to get as many people on disability as possible. Every once in a while the corruption gets so outlandish that Charleston takes note and slaps some hands, but it never goes away.

    Oh, and if anyone is interested in a social study regarding xenophobia and racism in Appalachia, please do visit Mingo, Logan or Boone county; it’s like walking back in time into the early 20th century. I was talking to a cable guy at a get together when i was in Charleston a month ago. He regaled us with a story of how a Mingo client proclaimed that he and his partner, newly arrived to install some cable, must leave immediately or suffer being shot with the client’s 45 pistol; you see the man objected to the skin color of the cable worker’s partner.

    Oh, and according to Post Carbon Institute and Sierra Club, each one of those mountaintop strip jobs represents only 1 hour’s worth of electricity in the US:


    Take a look at all the grey areas:

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Yes, saw that one the other day when it came out. A sad tale that is going to become ever more common.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Don’t know why my reply to Morin Moss ended up here with you.

      I haven’t visited WV for a while—I tend to bypass all of it on the south and most of it on the north when heading west. I have stayed at Canaan and Hawk’s Nest and other WV state parks, fished Shaver’s Fork, and visited Cass for the trains—the “nicer” parts on the VA side of the state, and a nice place to visit.

      I plan to make a special trip soon to SW VA and WV to see the mountaintop mining for myself. It is an absolute shame that so much of what is/was a beautiful state has been turned into a national sacrifice zone.

      I read a lot of history, and the story of the Mingo and Logan County “coal wars” almost reads like fiction. The Tug, Matewan (they did make that great movie about that one), Blair Mountain, John Lewis and the UMW.

      (and you don’t have to go to Mingo to find “Mingo clients”—-we have quite a few like that in VA within an hour’s drive of the nation’s capital)

    • kanspaugh Says:

      Apropos of this post, Darrel Scott’s “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.”

  4. daveburton Says:

    Strange that you should post this today. It was just yesterday that I watched a TV news report saying that in a Gallup poll of Americans’ well-being, they found that the people of North Dakota had the highest level of contentment of all the fifty States. Here’s USA Today’s version of the story:


    • dumboldguy Says:

      It’s not strange that daveburton would arrive to crap up the discussion with a “contrarian” link that he thinks proves some point. Dave tends to complicate the simple and simplify the complicated, and lays obfuscation and confusion over everything.

      I would suggest that a careful reading of the USA Today article might suggest to people without preconceived bias that the purported “contentment” and the darker issues mentioned in this post are NOT mutually exclusive.

      • daveburton Says:

        When you think USA Today and Gallup are “contrarian,” that should tell you that it’s you who is outside the mainstream.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          The head village idiot is back on scene, wearing his biggest set of conservative blinders and again showing us his cognitive dissonance.

          First, Dave, I will say again that you MUST someday notice the “…” marks that many of us use to “qualify” the meaning of the words they surround. I.E., “contrarian” and contrarian are NOT the same words.

          Second, I will repeat that a careful reading of the USA Today article might prove illuminating to people with functioning brains and intact analytical reasoning powers (“Not you, Burton”, as the sergeant said to the recruit whose mother had died).

          Good joke, Dave, you telling US about who is “outside the mainstream”. Have you forgotten already that YOU are the one driving the wrong way on the interstate? You are the one that your pretty real estate agent wife called on the phone to warn you about. Moran!

  5. rayduray Says:

    Mother Jones Magazine has an expansive article and podcast up featuring the recent debate between Dr. Francis and Trenberth on this winter’s weird weather.


  6. Cy Halothrin Says:

    The following is highly relevant to this topic. I hope you guys have the twisted sense of humor that I do.


    • dumboldguy Says:

      There’s nothing twisted about your sense of humor at all, Cy. Thank you for this. A great find, and now on my favorites list, along with sites like The Onion, Duffel Blog, and Jesus Was A Liberal.

      My all time favorite site like this is now defunct, unfortunately. “Liberals Must Die” was so good that it took several visits before you “got it”. As part of its masthead, it had the iconic photo of the Tea Partier holding up the “Moran” sign—that was the big clue. The great thing about it was that it appeareed to be self fueling after a while—-except for a little added “chum” on occasion, the comments from real rabid right wing-nuts and real offended liberals flowed nicely and you couldn’t write better ones. Or maybe every last one was fake? That’s what made it so good—you couldn’t tell.

      Jesus Was A Liberal is actually a serious site, but the page called “hate mail” is where the humor enters. I wonder what Dave Burton will think of all this? Will he praise the Lord when he is sent a personal sign? As in sea level in NC rising ten feet overnight and submerging his “for sale” property?

    • We’re comfortable with gallows humor, Cy.

  7. ClimateState Says:

    I think the situation is similar in Australia’s open coal mines and in Tar Sand Canada.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      No doubt. The “Gold Rush–Wild West–Boom Town” thing is a well known phenomenon and seems to be a “human nature” thing. Anyone who lives in the American West along the route of one of the early railroads can tell you the history—the railroad comes first with a tent city, a “whiskey and wild women” boom town grows rapidly, the railroad construction moves on and the town shrinks and becomes more “normal” and permanent (and decent women can then walk the streets).

      The same thing happened time and again in the mining towns of the West, and will happen in the Bakken as well, and the modern day Wyatt Earps will earn their pay as it does.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      I knew a few who went off to the Alberta Tar Sands over 10 years ago. It started off great but became a hellhole within a couple years – $900/wk for a room with shared kitchen & bathroom but you were only allowed to be on the premises 8pm – 8am, 7 days a week.

      And the cost of everything was jacked up over 200%.

      And then there are stories like this

  8. […] XL OK. -Emma writes about living in the area affected by the West Virigina chemical spill. -A young woman, lured to North Dakota for a truck-driving job in the oil industry, shares her agonizi…. -Exploring climate change through art: giant pastel oceanscapes and icebergs drawn by Zaria […]

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