“The Future Is Still Incredibly Bright”

“More than two years after the state’s unprecedented oil bonanza fizzled to a lull, North Dakota — the nation’s No. 2 oil producer behind Texas — is experiencing a sort of boomlet that has pushed daily production back above 1 million barrels daily,” the Associated Press reported recently.

“There is a long-term optimism that was not here just a year ago,” Williston Republican Sen. Brad Bekkedahl is quoted as saying in the article.

“The future is still incredibly bright,” Rob Lindberg, head of Bakken Backers, a pro-oil coalition, told the Minot Daily News.

It’s been a rough couple of years for North Dakota thanks to big swings in commodity prices. A double whammy of low crop prices and low oil prices caused a big slowdown in the state’s economy which, in turn, caused the gusher of tax revenues flowing into the state government to become a trickle.

Lawmakers, over the last two sessions, have had to go through the process of reeling in profligate boom-era spending. In the private sector, businesses have closed. People have lost their jobs.

It hasn’t been a happy time.

Which is why it’s important to remember just how much oil activity is still going on.

Per Lindberg’s numbers as reported by the Minot Daily, North Dakota is still the second largest producer of oil in the country. We’re 19th in the world.

In 2016 there was an average of 35 rigs operating in the state. Back during the 1980’s boom/bust cycle the rig count dropped to zero. In May there are about 50 rigs currently operating and an all-time record of 13,632 producing wells.

There are still thousands and thousands of people employed directly by the oil industry in our state, and tens of thousands more employed indirectly.

There’s little we can do about the vagaries of commodity prices, outside of diversifying our state economy to make it more resilient to those sort of ups-and-downs. The biggest headaches over the last couple of years have resulted from a political miscalculation.

Our political leaders spent far, far too much money. The correction was a painful one.

Now that it’s largely done, and oil seems to be on a rebound (if not headed back to another boom), the future is, indeed, looking pretty bright for our state.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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