Landowners in western North Dakota have a much better chance of striking it rich from oil than they do playing the lottery, say the Stohlers. Some of their neighbors in the town of about 120, from bar tenders to Tupperware salespeople, have become "overnight millionaires" from oil royalty payments.
"It's the easiest money we've ever made," said Lorene Stohler, who worked for decades as a sales clerk at a small department store.
State and industry officials say North Dakota is on pace to set a state oil-production record this year, surpassing the 52.6 million barrels produced in 1984. A record number of drill rigs are piercing the prairie and North Dakota has nearly 4,000 active oil wells.
The drilling frenzy has led companies to search for oil using horizontal drilling beneath Parshall, a town of about 980 in Mountrail County, and under Lake Sakakawea, 180-mile-long reservoir on the Missouri River.
"I have heard, anecdotally, that there is a millionaire a day being created in North Dakota," said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
Kathy Strombeck, a state Tax Department analyst, said the number of "income millionaires" in North Dakota is rising.
The number of taxpayers reporting adjusted gross income of more than $1 million in North Dakota rose from 266 in 2005 to 388 in 2006, Strombeck said. The 2007 numbers won't be known until October, she said.
Well that's great. But remember. The United States consumes about twenty million barrels of oil per day. So we're not even up to a week's worth of oil coming out of North Dakota. But it's a start, isn't it? Especially if some of those millionaires get wise and invest in wind and solar technology for their new abodes.