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Here We Go Fracking John Waters!

Josh Mogerman

Posted May 22, 2012

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I look at Pitchfork and Midwest Energy News online every day. And before this week, I’ve never seen the same story covered on both sites. But really, that is no surprise. Music nerdery and energy wonkery never cross paths…

…until last week when both sides took note of tweets indicating that one of my favorite current bands, Here We Go Magic, had picked up a hitchhiking John Waters in eastern Ohio. Yeah, that John Waters, the one-time gross-out director---now much beloved for works like “Hairspray.”

Why was a famous director thumbing a ride onto a rock tour van in middle America? Well, that’s the energy connection. As the band tells it, the fracking boom in western Pennsylvania has made it impossible to get a hotel room in the region. They, along with Waters, were stuck wandering the highways in search of accommodations.

Now, I think it’s a fantastically interesting story on its face---but digging deeper, it points to some issues we have been focused on as the energy rush has shifted to the Midwest and Great Plains. The discussion about fracking tends to focus on the economic boom and water impacts. But what gets missed are some amazingly damaging impacts resulting from the pile on. In the Dakotas, the sudden influx of workers in to work the Bakken has resulted in localized inflation causing price surges on food staples and everything else. The sudden influx of workers on small towns have run up the cost of a gallon of milk to $6. And the “man camps” put in place there (as well as Pennsylvania) because rural counties don't have accommodations to house the temporary working population have exacted social costs that many impacted counties were not prepared for: big upticks emergency room visits, heavy wear on roads and bridges, and even anecdotal evidence pointing to increases in crime and social diseases. While tales of hipsters picking up quirky public figures on the road are cute, there’s not anything cute about these other impacts. NRDC will be working to help prepare counties in the Midwest for the social issues that are sure to follow the fracking boom.

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BSMay 22 2012 09:28 PM

You forgot to mention the unemployment rates in some of these regions.

North Dakota -- 3%
Nebraska -- 3.9%
South Dakota -- 4.3%
Wyoming -- 5.3%
Oklahoma -- 5.0%
Kansas -- 6.1%
Montana -- 6.1%
Texas -- 6.9%

I think they're ok with a little extra inflation. In ND, there are McDonalds that pay $20/hr.

Much better than the more "progressive" states, especially California with it's 11% unemployment rate, DC with 9.5%, etc.

Matt KingMay 23 2012 11:14 AM

The reason the price of Milk is so high in North Dakota is because of state mandated price floor to "protect" the local dairy industry... the influx of population has nothing to do with it.

Josh MogermanMay 23 2012 11:21 AM

Ahh, the industry voices have spoken. Matt and BS, thanks much for taking the time to read and comment. In response to both, the point is that while the economic impacts are well-documented, there are significant downsides to the oil and gas boom in places that are unprepared for it. We are working with county governements to make sure they know what they are getting into---that means getting an array of resources in line, something that has not happened in many places in the past which has had profound impacts on quality of life.

BSMay 23 2012 07:31 PM


I'd kindly ask that you refrain from attempting to mischaracterize and falsely discredit my opinion. I am more than happy to tell anyone that I work in the oil industry and that the company I work for is benefitting from the current US oil boom.

However, I speak for myself and not anyone else. I will thank you in advance for keeping the discussion to the facts, just as I do.

Your article was about the downsides (which aren't even downsides) of shale production. I pointed out one major upside. The inflation is unavoidable, but it's the oil industry that is paying for it, not the poor helpless communities.

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