Brow Beat

John Oliver Exposes the Dark Side of North Dakota’s Oil Boom

On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver detailed the dark side of North Dakota’s oil boom. The oil industry has produced thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in wealth for the state, but Oliver pointed out it’s a lot like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory—behind the sweet, lucrative facade lies a frightening lack of regulation.

Oliver cites a reporter who found that the Bakken oil fields see one death every six weeks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has only eight compliance officers stretched across both North and South Dakota, by Oliver’s count. And there are also plenty of legal and regulatory loopholes that have allowed companies to preside over disastrous incidents—even fatal accidents—without really being held accountable. In some ways, a bewildered Oliver noted, the state is less regulated than Texas. (“Texas!”)

North Dakotans are very polite, Oliver notes, but this situation doesn’t call for cordiality. So Oliver created an instructive anger campaign video, accompanied by a billboard that implores, “Be Angry. (Please.)”