Wednesday, July 02, 2008
First came the agriculture boom with soaring prices for corn, wheat, soybeans, and other crops. Now, in the upper Midwest, many are benefiting from crude oil being pumped out of the Bakken shale formation via backyard oil wells creating millionaires in North Dakota at an astonishing rate.
This AP report fills in some of the details:
Oscar Stohler was raised in a sod house in western North Dakota and ranched there for nearly seven decades. He never gave much thought to what lay below the grass that fattened his cattle.There is reportedly one new "oil millionaire" created every day in North Dakota.
When oilmen wanted to drill there last year, Stohler, 83, doubted oil would be found two miles underground on his property. He even joked about it.
"I told them if they hit oil, I was going to buy a Cadillac convertible and put those big horns on the front and wear a 10-gallon hat," Stohler recalled.
He still drives his old pickup and wears a mesh farm cap — but it's by choice.
In less than a year, Stohler and his wife, Lorene, 82, have become millionaires from the production of one well on their land near Dunn Center, a mile or so from the sod home where Oscar grew up. A second well has begun producing on their property and another is being drilled — all aimed at the Bakken shale formation, a rich deposit that the U.S. Geological Survey calls the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever assessed.
Landowners in western North Dakota have a much better chance of striking it rich from oil than they do playing the lottery, say the Stohlers. Some of their neighbors in the town of about 120, from bar tenders to Tupperware salespeople, have become "overnight millionaires" from oil royalty payments.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story is how the newly rich octogenarians are reacting to their new-found wealth -with a modesty that almost seems un-American.