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Monday, June 19, 2017


NEW NORMAL A Star Tribune article said ND’s oil country boomed early in this decade and rippled across the economy of the upper Midwest -- then it crashed. But it’s starting to come back, the article indicated ND oil employment was 10 percent higher in April than the same month in 2016. The number of drilling rIgs in the state is roughly double a year ago; break-even costs are lower and productivity has soared. Production is expected to rise in 2017’s second half as a “new normal” sets in. The Wall Street Journal grabbed the same subject this week with an article sub-headed “Drilling region revives in North Dakota, in a sign of wider recovery in oil and gas.”

YES, IT’S TRUE Confirming the Tribune and WSJ articles -- April ND production increased two percent to 1.05 million barrels a day. Other good news -- 70 percent of the April production moved by pipeline, up from 58 percent in March. The Dakota Access Pipeline began commercial service on June 1, further increasing pipeline share and expectation of better prices.

LOOK -- NO DRILLING Add the word “refracturing” to your oil vocabulary. This is the application of modern fracturing technology to older wells -- the process squeezes another 200,000 to 250,000 more barrels from each well. The ND Dept. of Mineral Resources loves the idea because it allows additional production (and tax revenue) without further drilling.

DANGEROUS PLACE TO WORK For the fourth time in five years ND led the nation in labor-related deaths per capita. In 2015, ND had 12.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, for comparison the national rate was 3.4 and the rate in Minnesota was 2.7 according to Bureau of Labor statistics. About half the deaths in ND were oil and gas related. The state’s poor ranking is partially attributable to a large number of transient oil workers in a state with a relatively small population.

DOUG BURGUM was named America’s Best Entrepreneurial Governor by Forbes magazine. A glowing interview of Burgum was conducted by Forbes Publisher Rich Karlgaard, himself a Bismarck native. The interview describes how Burgum mortgaged farmland to invest in Great Plains Software, later sold to Microsoft for $1.1 billion. His proceeds were leveraged into other high tech startups.

INFRASTRUCTURE SPENDING In an opinion piece for ND daily newspapers, Gov. Burgum expressed his enthusiasm for changes in federal rules on infrastructure spending which shift more decision making to the state level. Burgum said, “Trump has called for leveraging $200 billion in federal spending to spur $1 trillion in total infrastructure investment through state, local and private-sector partnerships.” A group of governors advocated preference for projects that have a high percentage of local and state spending, such as the F-M Diversion Project.

“I SEE GROWTH POTENTIAL, IN SHORT.” -- Tom Ford, coordinator for the Grand Forks Base Realignment Impact Committee. Ford was referring to a change in command structure at the GFAFB placing all personnel under one command. He was encouraged because the change increases the potential for an expanded Global Hawk (a large unmanned surveillance aircraft) mission.

PIKER First she was Little Miss, then Miss Pre-Teen, Miss Junior Teen and Miss Outstanding Teen. Are you a little dizzy? Cara Mund (23) didn’t stop there -- she entered the Miss North Dakota contest. On the way she was awarded the top dance routine, top interview, top swimsuit and top eveningwear score . . . and then, she became Miss North Dakota 2017. Whew! The Bismarck woman has a business degree from Brown University and has been accepted to Notre Dame law school.

ANOTHER NICE SUMMER DAY Last Tuesday, high winds crashed through the Red River Valley snatching 15 empty rail cars in Grand Forks and pushing them a half-mile away, where they collided with other train cars. One car was derailed. Across the river in Minnesota, four semis were blown over on I-94.

SIXTY YEARS AGO On June 20th, it will be 60 years since the disastrous Fargo tornado of 1957 in which 12 died, 330 homes were destroyed and 2,000 left homeless. This was the largest tornado in state history and one of the state’s largest natural disasters. Using today’s rating system, the 1957 tornado would be an F-5 (the highest) with winds of 275 mph.

“IRONY DOESN’T TRANSLATE INTO PRINT” -- Novelist Erica Jong. A lack of context and voice tones may turn a sarcastic comment into one which is inflammatory. Roxanne Vaughan, a professor of biochemistry at UND, tried to be ironic when she made the following comment about a 12-year-old girl of Indian heritage who won a national spelling contest: “I’m sure she’s an immigrant – not worthy of interacting with our pure Americans – send her back.” In the age of the Internet her comment went national and she was quickly branded a bigot and racist. Vaughan said her unfortunate sarcasm was intended to highlight how we benefit from a diverse culture. Views of her comment are softening, but it will take awhile to fully reel it back in.

SORRY YOU’RE DISAPPOINTED The president of the Universal Society of Hinduism in Nevada says the Lotus Meditation Center at UND is being moved to an unsatisfactory location shared with other groups. The old location is one of a number of campus buildings being demolished. Rajan Zed said, “We’re seeking a decent new home. This would not be an exclusive Meditation Center.” A UND spokesman said he "appreciates where the group is coming from," but noted that the center has never been exclusive to one group. "I think this group would like the center to be exclusively for folks who practice what they practice, but that's not in the cards."
DROUGHT is enveloping much of ND. About a fourth of the state in a column from Minot south to the SD border is classified as severe drought, the Red River Valley has the least drought and is classified abnormally dry. The remainder of the state has moderate drought.

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