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Advancing Utah's Energy Future

Crude reality: North Dakota oil boom has Utah envying its surplus green

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Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — At times, Cody Stewart looks out his window at the state Capitol overlooking Salt Lake City and sees the lush prairie grasslands of North Dakota.

It is a lusty, fanciful view for the governor’s point man on energy development.

From his vantage point, he sees how North Dakota has the nation’s No. 1 economy, the country’s top jobless rate and an education system rife with dollars flowing from unhindered access to natural resources such as oil and gas.

A dozen years ago, new technology unlocked the wealth of the Bakken Formation, a 200,000-square-mile layer of shale that occupies western North Dakota, and parts of Montana and Canada.

Back in Utah, the state sits on an “energy gold mine” from the world’s largest source of oil sands and is home to a substantial chunk of the Green River Formation, the world’s richest deposits of oil shale.

Stewart and a whole movement of conservative Republicans wonder — if Utah had access to its own resources, would the story of its anemic education funding have a different narrative?

They contemplate if Utah could enjoy its own brand of Bakken and reap the rewards that would follow — an amply funded education system — if not for the federal government that stands in the way.

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