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Published January 24 2012

Forum editorial: Startling Oil Patch numbers

The stories coming out of North Dakota’s Oil Patch – anecdotal and confirmed – make more sense when placed in the context of the startling statistics associated with the boom. Some of the numbers are so mind-boggling, they not only speak for themselves, but they also provide troubling substance to the stories. For example:

And on and on it goes. The numbers change daily, and not for the better.

Well, say defenders of every aspect of the boom, it’s the free market at work. Give it time and the market will do its magic and everything will be peachy keen. We’re not so sure.

The market is amoral. Without targeted intervention and reasonable regulation, the market will maximize its priorities, which seldom include minimizing the deleterious effects a go-go boom can have on people, communities and cultures.

The troubling trends in oil country cannot be spun away simply because money is being made and government revenues are setting records. The numbers suggest that at the very least, industry should ratchet it down enough for North Dakota’s rural small-town ranching and farming culture to catch up. If the industry won’t do it, a slowdown imposed by regulators should not be off the table.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.