“Run the Play” – Oil is Back !
- The Pack is Back !
With 16 seconds left in the game and down by 3 points, the Green Bay Packers called their final time-out. It was 3rd and goal on the Dallas 2 foot line. In the huddle, with the game on the line, Quarterback Bart Starr asked Kramer whether he could get enough traction on the icy turf for a wedge play and Kramer responded with an unequivocal yes. Starr came over to Lombardi on the sidelines to discuss the last play and told him he wanted to run a 31 wedge, quarterback keeper. Lombardi told Starr to ‘Run it! And let’s get the hell out of here!’ Starr returned to the huddle and called 31 wedge, 15. At the snap of the ball, Kramer blocked Jethro Pugh low and Ken Bowman hit Pugh high as Starr followed them into the end zone for the Packer lead and eventual victory.” (Source: Wikipedia).
This was one of the final plays in the 1967 NFL Championship Game affectionately known as the “Ice Bowl” because of the -13°F game time temperature. It was Landry versus Lombardi and this play will replay in my mind forever. It was the first time we had ever watched football on a color TV, but more importantly it was the first time I ever heard my father say, “The Pack is Back” !
So what does this nostalgic trip through football reel highlights have in common with the Bakken oil play? More than I initially thought. If you’re a true “cheese head” fan you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid regardless of the win – loss record, season after season. But, for the rest of us who have difficulty getting rallied up for yet another 4th quarter let down…well, we start to take the attitude “been there, done that, got the t shirts” and we move on.
Billings, Sidney and Williston are all too familiar with previous oil booms. Business owners and community leaders have the scars to prove it. This would definitely explain the slow response to build up the necessary supporting infrastructure to support this boom; since a boom implies a bust. I would venture to say, as are others, this is more than a typical boom. It’s being “billed” as a “world class technology oil play” that is fueling oil exploration and production and the subsequent commercial / industrial infrastructure to bring that commodity to market. This is not to say that this energy wave won’t be absent highs and lows. It would be foolish to do so!
The roots of this oil boom (if we still want to call it that) began in Elm Coulee (Richland County, MT) over a decade ago (2000). It contracted some in 2008 with a dip in oil prices, but with continuous advances in exploration, sectional hydraulic fracturing, and horizontal drilling techniques the ability to harvest oil from thin layers of shale has become commercially viable on a very big scale. Big scale, however, doesn’t necessarily mean “big oil”. Although there are plenty of big players present in the Bakken, the majority of the exploring, drilling, developing, and well operation is done by independents. It’s those 18,000+ independent, small companies (not all in the Bakken) that produce 54% of this country’s oil, 85% of our natural gas, and drill 94% of the wells. It’s those individual companies that are bearing the risk to bring Bakken to market. It’s those oil patch workers who are working long hours, day after day, in extreme weather conditions in an effort to realize their American dream for themselves and their families.
It seems fitting that as I started this piece with Vince Lombardi, I should conclude it by quoting him. It’s that “individual commitment to a group effort; that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” We have an amazing opportunity here in Montana, to build something of immediate, but lasting value alongside our neighbor, North Dakota. We have a decision to make. One puts us in the driver seat; the other leaves us a passenger. When I Monday morning quarter back this one, I want to be able to reflect on how we impacted the Bakken, not how the Bakken impacted us. It’s time to “run the play” – oil is back !