The Forty-Niners Of The 21st Century, Ctd

A reader adds to the natural gas thread:

The relative merits of methane, coal, and other energy sources should not be considered in a vacuum. As on practically any other issue, real-world practices and legal-institutional incentives have a great influence. The North Dakota energy boom is taking place in a location without the infrastructure (insufficient gas pipeline or local refining capacity) to make a lot of the natural gas yield usable – and without regulations requiring emissions capture. So a lot of the gas is being “flared” – burned off in the oilfields. This flaring adds CO2 to the atmosphere equivalent to that emitted from a million cars a year.

These pictures of the Bakken field from space are pretty dramatic.

Speaking of the Bakken region, Maya Rao took a job at a North Dakota truck stop this summer to get an inside look at booming regional economy and the motley cast of characters fueling it:

In the truckers’ lounge one day, two of the regulars, Blackneck and Fish, regaled the other men about how they had talked their way past a patrolman just over the border in Montana.

“I’m glad we didn’t get weighed. We’d be in jail!” said Blackneck, cursing. His nickname was short for black redneck, the phrase he used to described himself; he had traveled here after work prospects at his West Virginia coal mine withered. Blackneck had the height and build of a loan shark’s enforcer. Fish had screws in his ears and a topless image of his wife tattooed on his leg. He’d decided to become a truck driver here because he thought it had to pay better than his old job maneuvering bomb-sniffing dogs in the Middle East for only $50,000 a year.

They were paid by the quantity of water they delivered, rather than the hours they worked, and had every incentive to load up the truck heavier than a stampede of corn-fed hogs. That was the only way they could make money on a three-hour turnaround between the water depot and fracking site. The men also fudged the numbers of how long they had been driving in their trucker logs, surpassing the federal limits on driving shifts, and they bet on nobody stopping them.

Previous Dish on life amid the North Dakota oil boom here.