While the game-changing oil boom in North Dakota is undoubtedly one of the biggest energy stories of the decade, it’s also fundamentally a story about change.

Part of the appeal of life in the rural Great Plains is solitude and constancy. Lack of economic opportunity and isolation are some of the downsides. North Dakota is rapidly gaining more of the latter and losing the former. When a rural area changes this quickly, tensions are bound to erupt.

This week’s episode of EnergyNOW includes a segment on Williston, North Dakota, the closest “big city” to the heart of the oil boom, where the population has already doubled, hotels are booked solid, and fast-food restaurants are having to bring in foreign students to man the counters.

The Minot Daily News also found similar growing pains in the small town of Alexander, with an official population of 200 people and a steady stream of as many as 8,000 trucks traveling through each day going to and from the oil fields.

The comment thread on last week’s “Bakken from space” post is starting to attract some North Dakota residents, and it’s clear that not everyone is happy with the pace of change. For instance:

“ND is going to burn through the oil fast, a few companies will make loads of money, and the folk who were there AND the folks who moved there will be left in the dust when the oil runs out.”

“They should take our way of life into account. All the state and local officials care about is how we are finally the shining star of the US.”

“Unfortuately, I’ll probably never see this town the way it was again, which is kind of a touchy subject that doesn’t get brought up very much.”

“Growing pains are always hard. Be involved in your communities to make possitive changes instead of whining about “the way things used to be” or maybe you want to return to horse and buggy days too?”

At a minimum, “progress” appears to be in the eye (or, more specifically, the bank account) of the beholder. What are your thoughts?

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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