Two days after a rosy government report doubled the estimate of how much oil is tucked beneath North Dakota, four men hop out of their vehicles into the soft dusk light atop a rock-strewn hill north of town.
They point at the barren, rolling landscape dotted with cattle, an oil well and a pond as a half-mile-long train of oil tank cars silently snakes past in the distance.
One is a former hedge fund manager who flew in from Connecticut. Another is a real estate investor who drove his pickup from Spokane, Wash. There’s a local civil engineer and a homebuilder who moved out here when business dried up on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
They’re planning to buy the 70 acres of farmland for a 56-home subdivision on one-acre lots, envisioning a bedroom community as the area’s oil boom reality of man camps and crowded RV parks morphs into something more permanent. “This new estimate tells people looking to invest here that, hey, there is enough oil to drill here for 20 years instead of five,” Williston Mayor Ward Koeser said. “Now there’s scientific proof that we have twice as much oil as they said five years ago, and that gives us a little more stability, reliability and credibility.”