The natural gas boom is on in America. As seen in these satellite images, the growth of boomtowns across the American prairie has been explosive thanks to fracking, which is pumping chemicals and water deep underground to break up rock and release the gas (and oil) that was unreachable by traditional means.
While the safety of fracking techniques are still under debate, mining firms have wasted no time exploiting the technology. The satellite imagery shows that what was once an area devoid of light has transformed into ground zero for gas exploitation. The lights speak volumes. These boomtowns have given North Dakota an unemployment rate of 3.2%, the lowest in the U.S., although worries persist about fracking, as many are concerned about chemicals seeping into and contaminating groundwater.
Even if regulations on fracking rise, the gas boom is set to transform the American economy, even making the US a larger oil producer than Saudi Arabia by 2017. You can see the boom most clearly in these two images that compare western North Dakota in 2003 and 2013. Boomtowns are turning up wherever natural gas is being found, creating a potent mix of (clean-ish) energy, pollution and paying jobs.
In the end, natural gas occupies a sort of middle ground between dirty coal and clean, green energy. Like the gas that fracking unlocks, the boom's prospects for both climate change and aiding the economy are somewhere in between.