Why won't the president visit North Dakota?
Good question because North Dakota, which produced an eye-popping 800,000 bbls of oil last month, has now become the second largest oil producing state behind Texas.
And it's all happened without much help from the federal government.
Why should Obama visit?
This energy boom is producing clear benefits, for North Dakota, which has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and for the rest of America, which is importing the fewest barrels of oil since the mid-1990s and getting closer than ever to the elusive goal of energy independence.
"I would encourage him to go out," said former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who campaigned with Obama in the state in 2008. "You've got to see it to believe it. It's a big boost to our economy and also a big boost to our nation's energy policy."
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is planning to visit the region in September, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured the oil fields earlier this month. While notable, these visits don't carry with them the power and significance of a presidential trip.
"He's got an incredibly busy travel schedule, and it's not something we've spoken about," Jewell said. "The president relies on me and other members of his Cabinet to be his eyes and ears on the ground where development is taking place."
Jewell said she and Obama have so far only talked at "a high level about a commitment to an all-of-the-above energy strategy about reducing our dependence on foreign oil," Jewell said. "But, I haven't had a conversation with him about the Bakken. I know his advisers close with him are keenly aware of it."
Why hasn't Obama visited North Dakota as president? Almost everyone interviewed for this article, including Jewell, simply said, "I don't know." A White House spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Actually, there's a very good reason the president won't visit North Dakota - or any other energy producing region:
Going to a state to tout domestic oil production could also further inflame Obama's environmental base, which is already worked up over his pending decision on the Keystone XL pipeline (which would ship some Bakken oil, if approved). Indeed, from an environmental perspective, visiting North Dakota might seem counterintuitive. Environmental concerns about hydraulic fracturing and other drilling technologies persist here, although they're quieter than in more populated areas in the East such as Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale formations. Producers are "flaring" roughly a third of the natural gas in North Dakota, which is discovered as they drill for oil, because the infrastructure doesn't yet exist to move and process the gas. The flaring exacerbates climate change-methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide-and wastes a usable resource. But the practice could also be a reason to visit the state, as Jewell noted while on a tour of a drilling rig near Williston, N.D. "A good part of why we're here is to learn about that," Jewell said of methane flaring.
Every few years, the the US Geological Survey (USGS) ups their estimate of the Bakken field reserves. Last May, they doubled the estimate of "technologically recoverable" reserves they estimated in 2008. Some energy experts believe that the USGS is lowballing the actual recoverable reserves. It's almost guaranteed that the reserve estimates will continue to rise as the technology to recover the oil and gas improves.
But since it's evil fossil fuel, Obama wants no part of the boom.
The Bakken field, and others like it in Pennsylvania, New York, and other states, promises to make the US virtually energy independent by 2025, and make the US the world's largest oil producer by 2020. It is a remarkable story and the president should visit the oil fields to highlight US technological know how and the benefits of the free market.