When oil comes to the surface, it often brings natural gas with it, and according to North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources, 29 percent of the natural gas now extracted in North Dakota is flared off. Gas isn’t as profitable as oil, and the energy companies don’t always build the pipes or systems to carry it away. For a year (with extensions), North Dakota allows drillers to burn gas, just let it flare. There are now so many gas wells burning fires in the North Dakota night, the fracking fields can be seen from deep space.
This is where we go when we follow the water. Down it flows—that’s science—and we race it to the ocean. Not quickly enough. The stream dwindles to mud that shines and then dulls. I feel as if I can hear the waves wash the rocks, just past where the pastures rise. We were so close this time. We’ll try again another day. Tomorrow’s weather forecast says rain.