Where the Frack is Vernal, Utah?

categories: Cocktail Hour

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This article of mine just came out in OnEarth magazine:

I greet you from the land of the giant white trucks. I sit here, typing away, barricaded behind the door of the last available hotel room — the smell of smoke oozing from every fiber of polyester bedspread and carpet of this non-smoking room — in Vernal, Utah. Outside on the crowded streets hundreds of Rams and Rangers and Silverados prowl, most displaying Texas and Wyoming and Oklahoma plates. They are driven by twentysomething men who, like their trucks, are almost all white, and who congregate outside my door, talking loudly and smoking relentlessly and, quite honestly, scaring me a little. I chain-lock the door and crank up the TV.

The drivers of the trucks are here for the same reason I am: the boom in drilling for oil and natural gas. The vast, dry lands south of Vernal hold about half of the state’s active rigs and present a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities for energy extraction: shale aplenty, fracking for both oil and natural gas, and even the state’s very own poised-to-open tar sands. Uintah County has been Utah’s main oil producer for more than 70 years. As far back as 1918, National Geographic extolled the area’s potential: “Campers and hunters in building fires against pieces of the rock had been surprised to find that they ignited, that they contain oil.” In other words, what is happening here is no nouveau drilling dalliance, no young sweetheart in first flush, freshly wooed, like the Bakken Field in North Dakota, but an on-again, off-again affair that has been going on for decades.

It is that affair that interests me, with all the salacious details of how Big Oil sidles up to a town, flirts with it, and wins it over. Not to mention what happens if — or, more accurately, when — the wooer decides to ditch the wooed.

 Please read the rest at http://www.onearth.org/article/how-vernal-utah-learned-to-love-big-oil




  1. Rahul Dave writes:

    Super article, thanks! And Voto’s Western Paradox is indeed a great book, full of bile, and as you said energy.

    Just having come back from India, I wish I could say things were better there. Unfortunately they are not, and India is being opened up piece by piece by the mining companies and the cement quarries and all that: the price of development. Indeed, central India is dealing with a full blown Maoist insurrection, and to be honest, thank god that someone id standing up to the state-industrial complex.

    The price, as you pointed out, is in air quality, people’s health, social upheaval due to mass migration to cities/economic-zones, etc..