While oil prices are bringing pain to families around the world, new oil discoveries are bringing undreamed-of prosperity to some ordinary Americans. An elderly North Dakota couple who worked hard for decades on their cattle farm and put their four children through college have suddenly become millionaires, thanks to the discovery of oil under their land. The first well was only a mile or so from the sod home where Oscar Stohler, 83, grew up. A second has begun production and a third is being drilled — all aimed at the Bakken shale formation, a rich deposit that the US Geological Survey calls the largest continuous oil accumulation it has ever accessed. “It’s the easiest money we’ve ever made,” said Lorene Stohler, 82, who worked for decades as a sales clerk at a small department store.

The Stohlers are not the only overnight millionaires in the state, which has nearly 4000 active oil wells. The number of ND taxpayers reporting gross income of more than one million dollars rose from 266 in 2005 to 388 in 2006. One expert predicts that as many as one-third of the population in one county will become millionaires over the next three to five years. Agriculture is also bringing high returns.

The Stohlers say their new-found wealth has not changed them. They have moved into a new house — the first one they have owned — and established trust accounts for their children. Lorene splashed out on a sprinkler system for the new garden and Oscar bought her a $1000 ring for their 60th wedding anniversary. Despite threatening to buy a Cadillac, he still drives his old pickup truck. “We got enough now to buy new stuff,” Lorene said, “but we like our old stuff.” ~ AP/ Yahoo, June 30

Mary Rice Hasson is a Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC. She is currently working on a book that offers new data on and explores the views of Catholic women on sexual...