The US shale energy boom of the late 2000s and 2010s has brought both
economic growth and negative externalities to communities undergoing extraction.
Building on previous research on fracking landscapes - as well as geographies of energy
and natural resources and case studies of environmental subjectivity in extractive zones
- this dissertation employed a suite of qualitative methods to examine the discourses and
ideology used to support and oppose fracking-led development in North Dakota's Bakken
The dissertation consists of three substantive chapters. The first employs key actor
interviews and participant observation to examine how pro-oil ideology is advanced by
economic and political elites in North Dakota. This chapter concludes that elites frame
support for oil as an extension of existing conservative ideologies prevalent in the state.
The second substantive chapter consists of content analysis of coverage of oilrelated
events in state-level newspapers, specifically concentrating on a 2014
conservation ballot measure and the Keystone XL pipeline. This chapter concludes that
pro-oil writers are more effective in their messaging due to focusing on economic and
The final substantive chapter uses interviews and focus groups to gauge fracking
opinions of residents of Minot, a key city in the Bakken Shale. This chapter concludes
that residents find cultural changes related to oil and gas development of greater
consequence than political or economic changes.
- Brannstrom, Christian Professor and Associate Dean