If you want to see the future of the shale industry — what today’s drilling rush will leave behind — come to Bradford, Pennsylvania.
A small city, it was home to one of America’s first energy booms, producing over three quarters of the world’s oil in 1877. A wooden oil rig towering over a local museum commemorates those heady days, marking the first “billion dollar oil field” in the world.
But times have changed dramatically in Bradford. Most of the oil has been pumped out, leaving residents atop an aging oil field that requires complicated upkeep and mounting costs. Since its height in the 1940’s, Bradford’s population has steadily declined, leaving the city now home to only 8,600 people, down from over 17,000.
The story of Bradford these days is a story of thousands of oil and gas wells: abandoned, uncapped, and often leaking.