Boom! Bust!


March 17, 2015 | High Country News | Marshall Swearingen

Consider the effects, good and bad, of an energy boom: new jobs and higher wages, housing shortages, infrastructure challenges, traffic accidents, increased state revenue. The list is so familiar that you could be talking about 2015 or 1975 (or even 1879).

High Country News has been publishing in-depth stories about natural resource extraction in the West for nearly half a century, which Marshall Swearingen curated into a gallery of boom and bust cover stories. From coal in Wheatland, Wyoming in 1977, to uranium in Grants, New Mexico in 1985, to natural gas in Rifle, Colorado in 2008, HCN’s coverage documents the “spasmodic economic history” of Western energy.

The articles – which you can read in-full in archival issues of HCN – provide a longview of the role of boom and bust. As Swearingen notes, Paul Krza’s 1997 piece on Rock Springs, Wyoming might capture it best: “And in the end, Krza concluded, it might just be in Wyoming’s cultural and political DNA to ‘sit back, depend on minerals and wait for another boom.'”

Which leads to a fundamental question about energy in the West: If you know the boom and bust cycle is coming, can you prepare for it? Inside Energy and Wyoming Public Radio explored this question in the recent series Boom 2.0: