Tank Farm
Shovelling Son

The following is excerpted from Tony Horwitz's BOOM: Oil, Money, Cowboys, Strippers, and the Energy Rush That Could Change America Forever, published by Byliner. BOOM is available at Byliner.com, or at AmazonApple, and Kobo.


Meandering south from Cold Lake on small roads, I entered a new landscape. The boreal forest of northern Alberta gave way to rolling prairie, grain silos, and rural crossroads. The oil sands were now behind me -- or rather, flowing beneath me. Every road had pipeline crossing signs or ditches for new lines alongside or piles of pipe sections waiting to be laid. All pipes led to the place I was headed: Hardisty, home to Canada’s largest oil depot and the site where the Keystone XL was slated to begin.

51FAGvDveJLAt first glance, Hardisty, population 650, looked much like other sleepy settlements I’d passed. But in the distance loomed a field of circular white storage tanks, like metal mushrooms sprouting from the prairie.

“Most people see that from the highway and think it’s the town,” said Shari Irving, the innkeeper at the Solitaire Lodge, where I pulled in for the night. The Solitaire was more barracks than motel, housing a dozen dorm-like rooms along a narrow corridor. “No one comes to Hardisty for a holiday,” explained Irving, who ran the lodge with her husband, a native of New Zealand. “Oil is bloody good for business,” he interjected. “Why shouldn’t we profit instead of those piss pots and communists in Nigeria and Venezuela?”

Hardisty, however, had yet to prosper from the oil-sands boom. The storage depot lay beyond the town limits, so no tax from the terminal flowed into local coffers. Most workers lodged and shopped in a more distant town that had better facilities. Also, as I saw the next morning, the oil depot didn’t employ many people, at least not directly.