Black gold might soon be gushing from the Kansas soil, according to AP. Drilling has only just started but the oil is attracting speculators from all over. Ancient land records are being pulled off of courthouse shelves in a frenzy; land that cost $30 an acre is now fetching $3000.
The familiar signs of an oil boom are everywhere: restaurants busier than ever, rental prices shooting up, hotels booked solid. Kansas has more undrilled acreage than most states. Each horizontal well costs about $3 million and is expected to deliver a 90 percent return on investment, paying for itself after 18 months of production. High oil prices are an extra impetus to drill, baby, drill — and to keep the new jobs sprouting from the Kansas ground. The boom “is going to change things forever in this part of the world,” says one local prospector.
Kansas’ oil boom is important for two reasons. Firstly, here we have another example of the incredible job-producing abilities of brown industry. Compare the furor over Kansas’ oil and gas explosion with the unfulfilled and overhyped “green” jobs, which have yet to materialize. And while green jobs will require subsidies for years, brown jobs don’t require federal upfront money — and will deliver taxes to the Treasury right from the start.
Secondly, just when it looks like America’s energy supply will dominate domestic politics and foreign policy alike for years to come, we seem to be literally swimming in new reserves of oil and gas, sinking new wells across the country while finding ways to squeeze the last drops out of old ones, and all the while leading the world in inventive and efficient (and increasingly environmentally friendly) technologies to get it all out.
Abundant natural resources powered the great American boom after the Civil War and then lifted the country to unprecedented prosperity in the 20th century. So far, from the standpoint of energy at least, the 21st century looks like more of the same.