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Published April 28 2012

Forum editorial: Mommy, can we go to oil land?

Consider these summer vacation options:

• “Mommy, Mommy, can we go to New Jersey? We have to see the tank farms and breathe the dirty air along the New Jersey Turnpike. Mommy, can we, can we?”

• “Daddy, Daddy, can we go to Indiana this summer? We want to go to near Hammond and Gary so we can see those big empty factories and the crummy old houses and dirty streets right below the highway. Daddy, can we, can we?”

• “You know, dear, I think this summer we should take the kids to Texas, you know, to the Houston ship channel, so they can see and smell the big oil refineries and chemical plants, and maybe wade in polluted water and take in some of that bad air. What do you think, kids?”

“Oh, Daddy, oh, Mommy, can we, can we?”

If those marvelous choices aren’t exciting enough, Americans of the Clark Griswold-family persuasion (National Lampoon’s “Vacation”) now have the Bakken oil play in western North Dakota. Really, they do.

A vision of “oil tourism” has risen from the rugged western landscape. The idea is that tourists will be falling all over themselves to get onto an oil rig, or camp beneath the warm glow (and roar) of a natural gas flare (toasted marshmallows, kids?), or watch the drama of mile-long unit trains filling with crude at one of those new rail depots (North Dakota’s variation of “The Little Engine That Could”), or ride along with an oil service trucker and get stuck in traffic for two hours (and possibly learn the technique of tossing a “trucker bomb” into the road ditch), or (wow, this is best of all!) spend a night or two in a man camp. Talk about meeting new people!

A little silly, right? But apparently there has been some serious (?) discussion about promoting oil tourism in oil country. Well, go for it. But rest assured, they won’t be back for a second visit, unlike the repeat visitors to Medora, Roosevelt Park, Lake Sakakawea and Devils Lake.

Imagine the conversation:

“Hey, Dad, what’s that over there?” asks young Rusty Griswold from his perch on an oil rig platform. “Oh, that? That’s the North Dakota Badlands – you know, buttes and canyons and buffalo and stuff,” says Clark. “Look, look, you can just about see another family through the dust and haze on that other oil well across the canyon. Wave, Rusty. Maybe they can see us.”

“Can’t see ’em, Dad.”

“Good talk, son.”


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