Stories and Reports

Colorado River
In Crisis

Stories and Reports

The Western
Energy Boom

Stories and Reports

Health Care in
the Rural West

Historical Background

The Country Life Commission

Dear Visitor: This site preserves the legacy publications of the Rural West Initiative from 2009-2014. 
For more recent information on our conference and publications, please go to

Research Paper: Benefiting from Unconventional Oil

Report: Energy Development in the Rural West


A research report commissioned from Headwaters Economics by the Bill Lane Center for the American West, "Benefiting from Unconventional Oil" assesses how states like North Dakota are dealing with the rush to extract valuable energy resources. Some of the report's key findings: 

  • Sky-high global energy prices and "unconventional" techniques like hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and horizontal drilling have brought a frenzy of drilling to once-dormant oil patches in western North Dakota and eastern Wyoming.
  • Although industrial and community impacts from development of these unconventional plays are greater and more continuous than conventional oil fields, state revenue policies are not designed to provide help to impacted areas.
  • Production from unconventional wells plummets after the first year, so to maximize production, more wells have to be drilled and old ones re-fracked, creating a "treadmill" of heightened activity stretching over many years. 

"North Dakota appears to be learning on the job," says the report, "But a more consistent approach in all states that are facing future unconventional plays will need to replace the current, often ad-hoc assistance to impacted communities.".

The report, compiled by the Montana-based research institute Headwaters Economics  -- is available for download here:

Benefiting from Unconventional Oil: State Fiscal Policy is Unprepared for the Heightened Community Impacts of Unconventional Oil Plays


The report comprises part of a larger study of energy development in the rural west, including an interactive documentary video produced by the Bill Lane Center for the American West.




Last modified Tue, 24 Apr, 2012 at 17:03