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2014's Falling Oil Prices Hit Close To Home

A gas flare is seen at an oil well site on July 26, 2013 outside Williston, North Dakota. Gas flares are created when excess flammable gases are released by pressure release valves during the drilling for oil and natural gas (Andrew Burton/Getty Images).
A gas flare is seen at an oil well site on July 26, 2013 outside Williston, North Dakota. Gas flares are created when excess flammable gases are released by pressure release valves during the drilling for oil and natural gas (Andrew Burton/Getty Images).

This past year was not great for producers of oil. World oil prices fell by about half last year — the lowest prices since 2008. Despite the glut of oil, OPEC did not opt to cut production. That may cause a ripple effect in U.S. oil production.

In North Dakota, oil production has grown some 600 percent in the last decade. The Bakken region of North Dakota produces over a million gallons of crude oil a day — but the recent lull in consumption may mean a real hit to the industry there.

Howard Klug is the mayor of Williston, North Dakota, which Business Insider called “home to America’s biggest oil boom” in 2012.

As a result, Williston “got big real quick,” Klug told Here & Now’s Peter O’Dowd, growing from 16,000 residents to more than 27,000 in recent years.

The city is now around $300 million in debt due to expansion of its housing and infrastructure to support these new residents. But now, the low oil prices are making it difficult to continue to repay that debt, which Klug said would otherwise be “manageable.”

Klug says despite the decline in oil prices, investors are still intersted in Williston.

“We still have plenty of workers that are living in crew camps that need places to live on a permanent basis,” Klug said. “We’re producing 1.2 million barrels of oil a day in Western North Dakota.”

Klug says that the town is four years behind on paying off its debt.

“We have a plan that we’ll be able to spread out our debt,” Klug said. “The state of North Dakota has enough money to make Williston whole right now.”

Guest

  • Howard Klug, mayor of Williston, North Dakota.

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