The New Wild West: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown

In The New Wild West, Blaire Briody gives readers an in-depth and personal look at the oil and fracking business as seen through the eyes of half a dozen oil employees, their spouses and a few locals located in the remote town of Williston, N.Dak. Situated 60 miles from the Canadian border, Williston's population tripled when it became the epicenter of one of the largest oil booms in U.S. history. As workers, mostly men, came in search of high-paying fracking jobs, available housing disappeared, the city's infrastructure reached a critical point, crime skyrocketed and long lines formed at grocery stores, gas stations and traffic lights. Despite the harsh weather and dangerous, sometimes deadly, work environment, thousands arrived to grab at what for many was a last chance at the American dream. It's not a pretty picture: the work hours are long and highly dangerous, the living conditions are terrible and women in the area additionally face discrimination and possible sexual attack.

Briody interviews a local pastor; a farmer and his Native American neighbors, who watched the land change before their eyes; a grandmother; one of the only women on a fracking site; and a homeless man who lived in his car. Their conversations reveal the true cost of cheap American oil and gas. It's a world with few regulations, irreversible damage to the environment and serious tolls placed on human lives, making the price anyone pays at the pump far higher than what's actually shown. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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