Mandan News

Remnants left behind in the trail of the boom

Ever get the feeling that we ain’t where we were a while ago? Yes I know that wherever you go there you are such but since neither of my loyal readers have moved much I’m just saying things seem to be changing around here…

It seems like the downside of the oil boom is beginning to manifest itself; weird stuff like burglars breaking into homes and helping themselves to a snack and a nap or stabbings and beatings at bars seem to have become a weekly thing. And who knows what’s next.

I suppose all this weird stuff just goes along with rapid growth and the ensuing economic success that we’re engaged in.

However, it seems so out of character for us to brag about the success of our economy when the oil boom has more to do with luck than political posturing. Listening to many of our leaders’ crow about the ‘North Dakota Way’ seems rather arrogant to me. While many of our leaders are bragging about being open for business and our success becomes more noted around the country I can’t help but wonder if they’re telling the truth…and the truth is without the oil boom and good farm prices our fabulous economic results wouldn’t exist.

Of course our leaders are doing all they can to preserve the boom, none of them think oil and coal have anything to do with polluting the environment or global warming as that would encourage the demise of this prosperous industry.

The reality check for me is that I don’t necessarily disagree with Obama moving our economy away from oil and coal. As I look back I’m somewhat ashamed that we’re about to hand our kids and grandkids an economy based on fossil fuels. I had sincere hopes that by now we’d be powering our houses and cars with wind, solar, and other pollution free sources of energy.

Yes, I know that’s heresy around here, but my dad helped build the coal plants back in the 70’s and although they did the best they could to reclaim the land and clear the air they knew that the day would come when cleaner sources of energy would be taken seriously.

Both my loyal readers know that they can’t convince me that we humans haven’t pooped our nest. As most thinking folks know our nests can only handle so much fecal matter before they become toxic… thus it’s time that we get serious about cleaning it up before our comfortable lifestyles damage the next generation’s chances at success.

So as I hear about spills, flaring, extracting mercury from smokestacks, and such I can’t help but think we better find a way to clean it all up before the rest of the country finds less messy ways to power their lives and begins to outlaw major sources of pollution.

I guess I’m of the generation that hoped to emulate a more humble attitude toward our economic success. Maybe it’s time to remind ourselves about former Governor Link who governed during the coal boom and forced the coal industry to think about what happens ‘when the land is quiet again’. His thinking led to the best reclamation practices ever established and he didn’t brag about the North Dakota Way he just quietly lived it.

So change is underway, we can either resist it or find out how to keep pace with it…but even then I’m not sure what to do about the weird stuff that goes along with rapidly growing communities other than hope it all goes away…

Here’s hoping that we can clean up whatever debris is left in the trail of the boom.

By Dan Ulmer