A recent Wall Street Journal headline synthesized the good news: “Expanded Oil Drilling Helps U.S. Wean Itself From Mideast.” The Journal story, one in a gusher of reports that would thrill the departed Nixon, says that by 2020, nearly half of the crude oil America consumes will be produced at home, while 82 percent will come from this side of the Atlantic, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By 2035, oil shipments from the Middle East to North America “could almost be nonexistent,” the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries now predicts.
Fuel-stingy engines and development of renewable energy sources deserve ample credit. What’s really driving the positive trend, though, is a controversial near-quadrupling of oil and gas harvesting investment in the Western Hemisphere over the last decade. Nowhere is the resulting energy boom more stark than in high-plains reaches of the Williston Basin. Named for the North Dakota community that now is America’s fastest-growing small city, the underground rock formations shelter rich pockets of oil and natural gas beneath 140,000 square miles of grassy remoteness in the two Dakotas, Montana and southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba.