Speed Reads


John Oliver looks at North Dakota's deadly oil boom, asks polite residents to get angry

North Dakota is full of kind, polite people who are used to — even glib about — being ignored, said John Oliver on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. Or at least they were until the Bakken shale oil boom kicked off a few years ago. Yes, he said, "like Channing Tatum, North Dakota suddenly turned out to be a lot more interesting once it was covered in oil." With the price of oil down sharply, the North Dakota petro-bubble has deflated a bit, but it is expected to rise again with the price of oil. "So maybe let's use this pause to take stock of what the hell just happened to North Dakota," Oliver said. It wasn't all good.

Oliver briefly touched on the environmental damage that has, among other things, ruined the land on several farms. But he spent most of the segment looking at the state's oilfield deaths, reported to happen about once every six weeks, and the proudly lax regulatory environment that lets oil companies get off with a slap on the wrist, if that. "North Dakota, please listen: I get it, you're friendly, and that's fantastic," Oliver said. "But this has gone too far. Oil companies need to be held accountable when bad things happen." To get the North Dakotans fired up, Last Week Tonight made a commercial and rented a billboard. You can watch the ad and the long lead-up to it below, but be warned: There is some salty, probably NSFW language, including one F-bomb that the web-version censors, oddly, missed. Peter Weber