The word is out: jobs in North Dakota! The oil boom has drawn the attention of people throughout the country. With the economy in a poor state, many are flocking to North Dakota’s oil fields to answer the call for employment, only to find little or no housing. The oil companies have erected camps consisting of manufactured housing, but many of them are now full.
While more accommodations are needed, the locals often oppose the construction of additional camps. With the lack of housing, people are resorting to other, more desperate, types of lodging. Many motels have been booked for several years and rentals have become harder to find. That leaves the influx of people scrambling for other forms of shelter. Numerous people have taken to living in campers or RVs, while others are living in their vehicles.
Local officials and lawmakers are worried about the newcomers that have been forced to seek unsatisfactory living environments. North Dakota winters are harsh: temperatures are as low as 2 degrees Fahrenheit, while wind chills factors can deliver sub-zero temperatures. Marna Hornung and her husband are one family that has come to North Dakota for employment. They are currently living in a camper on private property.
When asked how they are preparing for the winter ahead Hornung replied “we have put a skirting on our camper using plywood with electric heaters underneath. We have hay bales around the outside up against the wood. We heat with propane a 100 gallon tank which cost $51 to fill up. We also have an electric space heater inside the camper.”
“The money is well worth the hardships of winter that is yet to come,” she continued. “My husband is making $27.50 hour driving sand out to the wells.” What exactly is driving this oil boom? According to “Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated mean undiscovered volumes of 3.65 billion barrels of oil, 1.85 trillion cubic feet of associated/dissolved natural gas, and 148 million barrels of natural gas liquids in the Bakken Shale Formation of the Williston Basin Province, Montana and North Dakota.”
In May of 2011 it was announced by Secretary Ken Salazar that the update of the 2008 assessment of the Bakken Formation will begin in October 2011, at the start of the 2012 fiscal year, depending on funding. What does this mean to newcomers like Hornung? It means living in their camper taking super-short showers with their six-gallon hot water heater, and braving fierce winters.
“Our plan is to stay at least 5 years, for now. If the boom goes on longer, then we will stay. If not, we will move on and go back to trucking OTR.” Hornung said. While some find the oil boom unsavory and a bad idea, to others it is a means of economic relief. Though the hardships are many, when asked if it was worth it, Hornung replied, “Hell yes! Got to love oil!”