OIL: The Biggest Treasure Hunt

The greatest treasure hunt in U.S. history is in full cry. Above the green of North Dakota wheatfields rise the spidery towers of oil-drilling rigs. On the plains of Utah, shirt-sleeved crews set off dynamite blasts and, from the vibrations, map the subterranean oil-bearing strata. Over Alabama cottonfields fly planes with strange; antenna-like tails, which pick up magnetic waves and thus record geological formations below. In West Texas, wildcatters, trucks loaded with tools, inch across the prairies like gypsy caravans.

By turning up oil where it has never been found before, the hunt is transforming whole regions. Denver, center of...

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