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Oil and gas companies have the worst public image of any industry in the United States, according to Gallup. But it’s well-loved in a swathe of the U.S. from the northern Plains to the Gulf Coast, where the boom in unconventional energy production has transformed economies, enlivened cities and reversed negative demographic trends.
What now that the good times are over in the oil patch? In North Dakota, the epicenter of the once-hot Bakken shale play, the number of active rigs is down to 68 as of this week from 145 in June of 2014.
Some might argue that it’s now the turn of oil patch cities to suffer, just as they did when prices plunged back in the early 1980s, setting off a decade long decline. But many of these cities have made considerable progress in economic diversification, making themselves far more attractive places for non-energy businesses.
Perhaps no state benefited more from the energy boom than North Dakota. Long known more for its harsh weather, low population and featureless expanses than for anything positive, the massive deposits on the Bakken formation turned the state into the No. 2 energy producer in the country, trailing only Texas. The prairie state gained 45,000 energy jobs between 2007 and 2014. Now the decline in oil prices promises to eliminate quite a few of them.