Williston, North Dakota was a sleepy farm town for generations" until the frackers arrived. The oil companies moved into Williston, overtaking the town and setting off a boom that America hadn’t seen since the Gold Rush. Workers from all over the country descended, chasing jobs that promised them six-figure salaries and demanded no prior experience. But for every person chasing the American dream, there is a darker side" reports of violence and sexual assault skyrocketed, schools overflowed, and housing prices soared. Real estate is such a hot commodity that tent cities popped up, and many workers’ only option was to live out of their cars. Farmers whose families had tended the land for generations watched, powerless, as their fields were bulldozed to make way for one oil rig after another. Written in the vein Ted Conover and Jon Krakauer, using a mix of first-person adventure and cultural analysis, The New Wild West is the definitive account of what’s happening on the ground and what really happens to a community when the energy industry is allowed to set up in a town with little regulation or oversight" and at what cost.
In less than a decade, the United States rose to the top of oil producing nations, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia. Much of this boom is driven by the discovery of shale oil and the introduction of the hydraulic fracturing process, so much so that nearly 9 out of 10 oil and gas wells in the country use fracking. North Dakota’s Bakken region, which is roughly the size of Delaware, has accounted for more than 40 percent of the growth in U.S. oil production.
Yet, not all is well and very little is said about the dark side of these oil boom towns. Hydraulic fracturing relies on injecting water with different chemicals that contaminate deep water wells, directly affecting the water supply of more than 15 million people.
Award-winning author Blaire Briody gives a first-person account of life and conditions in Williston, which located on the western edge of North Dakota, at the heart of the oil boom. In this story about the sociology of the modern day gold rush, Briody informs about mineral rights severed from surface rights in a state that is putting farmers living on the property in direct conflict with oil drillers.
Harsh and unpredictable weather conditions, loneliness, long work hours and subhuman living conditions await those attracted to the oil boom in the hope of riches. Briody focuses on the lives of migrant workers who were already struggling as blue collar workers before they arrive in this oil town to bear the brunt of oil field injuries, market volatility and uncertainty due to oil price collapses. Briody’s personal accounts of these oil workers give us an up-close-and-personal look at individuals who are often running away from issues at home only to be gripped by another set of serious problems.
The New Wild West was the 2016 finalist for the Lukas Work-in-Progress Award from Columbia Journalism School and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. Additionally, Briody received the Richard J. Margolis Award for social justice reporting in 2014.
Blaire Briody is an award-winning journalist who has written for The New York Times, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Fast Company, Glamour, among others. She is the author of the narrative nonfiction book, The New Wild West: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown, which was the 2016 finalist for the Lukas Work-in-Progress Award from Columbia Journalism School and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. Briody received the Richard J. Margolis Award for social justice journalism in 2014, and she graduated from the University of California, Davis with a degree in international relations.
“Fascinating stories of people in pursuit of their piece of the oil boom.”
“The characters in The New Wild West are as complex and riveting as Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid.”
“Insightful, deeply reported, and at times heartbreakingly personal, Blaire Briody’s The New Wild West brings us face to face with the walking wounded of America’s domestic energy boom. It’s a must-read.”