Yesterday evening I learned from MarketWatch.com that in the past twelve months Whiting Petroleum stock lost 89% of its value. The stock went from about $30 per share down to less than $5 per share in less than a year.
As I describe how I feel about this, and what this means to me, I am going to start out being rational and logical, but then I am going to descend into my hatefulness and desire for revenge.
In Dickinson, North Dakota where I have lived for the past seven years, Whiting Petroleum is one of the largest oil field employers, along with Continental Resources and Marathon Oil. Back during the North Dakota oil boom from 2007-2015, most people here could not have imagined that Whiting Petroleum would be having financial problems a few years later.
One of the most desirable, sought after jobs by experienced oil field workers, was to be an operator/pumper for Whiting, Continental, or Marathon for several reasons. Experienced oil field workers knew that the oil boom would eventually be over, and that many oil field jobs would go away, but the oil wells and the oil well pumping units would continue to pump for the next twenty years, and they would require someone to check on them every day. Also, being an operator/pumper can be nearly a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, with a regular, normal schedule. It’s not crazy dangerous, or twelve hours per day every day like other jobs in the oil field.
During the North Dakota oil boom, because of the steady, long-term nature of many of the Whiting, Continental, and Marathon jobs, such as operator/pumper, the employees of these companies were able to bring their families to North Dakota and buy a home. They could almost count on being able to keep their job until retirement in ten, fifteen, or twenty years.
Even though houses that sold for $100,000 prior to the oil boom, suddenly went up to $250,000 due to demand/hype, the Whiting, Continental, and Marathon employees mostly bought houses, brought their families here, and had kind of a normal life, with a steady, regular work schedule, and long-term employment.
Meanwhile, most of the people who came to North Dakota for work during the oil boom, including myself, slept in our vehicles in the WalMart parking lot, the Tiger Truck Stop, Patterson Lake recreation area, under bridges, along the BNSF railroad right-of-way, along ditch banks, and other hiding spots until we got chased away.
There was no homeless shelter in Dickinson. The trailer parks would not allow travel trailers or RVs that were over ten years old, or truck bed campers like I had. I had problems finding a place to stay for my first two years in Dickinson, whether it was my truck bed camper, my utility trailer stealth camper, or being a renter in someone else’s home. There was an extreme shortage of housing, and price-gouging with quadrupled rent.
Some of the worst experiences and worst memories in my entire life were being in Dickinson, North Dakota trying to find a place to stay, and being treated like shit. I had a nice home that was paid-off back in Idaho, about $10K in the bank, and either a camper on my truck, or my utility trailer that was furnished like a camper, but I was run around in Dickinson and treated like a criminal vagrant, not so much by the Police, as by local people who had housing and new homeowners from Whiting, Continental, and Marathon.
When I went to work for oil field service companies in Dickinson, many times I was installing something for Whiting, Continental, or Marathon at one of their well sites. Only a few times were oil company representatives nasty or shitty with me on a site location. However, oil company employees were shitty to me in and around town.
When the oil company employees got off work at about 5:00 p.m., they got in their new company truck, drove back to their house, looked inside their refrigerator, maybe ate dinner at a dinner table with their family, took a shower, and watched television.
Me, I had to drive each of my no-license, drug addict co-workers back to where they lived, return the company truck to the company yard, clean out the trash, get in my truck and drive to the Tiger Truck Stop to sign up on the waiting list, to wait for an hour to take a shower for $8. Then go back to my truck bed camper that was resting on saw-horses, where the heater was able to keep it at about 50 degrees F inside, if the 15 amp breaker that I shared with someone else wasn’t tripped.
So getting back to Whiting Petroleum, I previously wrote about the announcement that 1/3 of Whiting Petroleum workers were getting laid off from Whiting back in August of 2019. I was surprised to learn this, because these operator/pumper type jobs were supposed to be long-term, the kind of job that an employee could expect to keep until they retired, the kind of job that would allow you to bring your family to Dickinson and buy a house.
Today, when I read that Whiting Petroleum stock had lost 89% of its value in the past twelve months, that the stock price had fallen from about $30 per share down to as low as $1.81 per share during today’s trading, I knew that this would impact many North Dakotans severely, whether they were employees, former employees, retirees, or investors.
To put this into perspective, if an employee, retiree, or investor owned 10,000 shares of Whiting Petroleum stock, twelve months ago this would have been worth $300,000. This would be a pretty good nest-egg, retirement fund, or asset. Picture today, during today’s trading, these same 10,000 shares got down to as low as $18,000.
So, how do I honestly feel about this? Well, these Whiting Petroleum stocks could go back up in value, some, eventually. Maybe a larger, wealthier oil company could buy out Whiting Petroleum. Maybe now is the time to buy a bunch of Whiting Petroleum stock while the price is low. On the other hand, Whiting Petroleum could go bankrupt.
But part of me feels like, “Ha, ha you motherfuckers, you lose.” Not only are you Whiting people going to lose your job, or have already lost your job, you lost all of your money in Whiting stocks, and now that you can’t pay for your $250,000 house that you still owe $200,000 on, nobody in Dickinson will pay more than $100,000 for it. You probably bought a new $70,000 F250 pickup truck too didn’t you.
Yes, I relish the fact that while I was struggling, suffering, and getting treated like shit, all of the people with comfortable jobs and comfortable homes, the security of long-term employment, and smug with their profitable investments, will now have to experience and go through what I went through, maybe even worse.
During the oil boom in North Dakota, most of the people who came here for work could not find or afford normal housing, they especially could not find or afford housing that would allow them to bring the rest of their families here, and have a normal kind of life.
The local Dickinson residents who already had housing, and the oil company employees who had the steady long-term jobs that allowed them to buy a house, they ridiculed, mocked, and disparaged the workers who didn’t have any place to live. The consensus in Dickinson amongst the people who had homes, was that these people who came here who weren’t home buyers, were vagrants and white trash who should be run out of town.
Now that Whiting Petroleum stock has lost 89% of its value, 1/3 of Whiting Petroleum workers have been laid-off, more Whiting Petroleum employees will probably be laid-off, and many employees, former employees, retirees, and investors have lost so much money in Whiting Petroleum stock, I am happy to see that these people who mocked and looked down on others, will lose their homes, lose their new vehicles, and their families will have to separate, just like the people they had once made fun of and ridiculed.