“The hard, ugly truth is you need this.”
Last Sunday, a bright, blustery day when there wasn’t much happening out in the oil field, given the holiday weekend, I saw two pickup trucks parked close to a horsehead pump.
Two guys – one 27, the other 56, and that’s how I’ll refer to them here, for the sake of anonymity – were busy repacking the casing on the main pipe. They’d shut off the well to release the pressure while they worked, and I slid off my pack and took a seat on the ground.
27 and 56 were emplyed by the big oil company that owned the well, and they worked as a team in seven-day shifts. They talked about having to do the same job last winter on a day that was 30 degrees below zero.
“Someone’s got to keep this thing running,” said 56.
He had worked in a mine in the Rockies but left when that collapsed. 27 had studied petroleum refining in college, but found work sooner out here on the oil pumping end of the business.
“The oil and gas industries just can’t go away,” 27 said.
Part of the reason, he said, is that there’s much money to be made. People on the field need the jobs (“Nobody’s working for free.”), and Wall Street investors want to keep seeing returns.
But what he really meant is that we’ve built ourselves a world that needs the oil too much.
“What’s everyone going to do, walk around with a backpack, like you?”, 27 said.
The crude oil that comes out of the pump 27 and 56 were working on – only one of thousands in the Bakken -gets shipped to refineries to make petroleum products, gasoline, diesel, and more.
“It’s in eveything you do and use,” 27 said. “If it’s not in everything, it transported it. … Who is willing to give up their big screen TVs and their XBOX, and all that other stuff? The hard, ugly truth is you need this. It just has to be done.”