The world’s first commercial oil well was in Oil City, Pa., which saw its fortunes fall along with the crude supply. Now that prices are at historic highs, Oil City is part of a renaissance. The easy crude is long gone, but a motley assortment of would-be barons is using everything from nuclear scanners to dynamite to churn up those last few drops. The Wall Street Journal pays a visit.
Many of today’s operations are tiny; one prospector sold everything for his first rig, and another still watches dogs for extra cash. But since 70% of the northwest Pennsylvania region’s oil lies untapped and seemingly inaccessible, bigger operations with bigger plans are here, too. An old hand says of an enterprising Canadian firm, "They could pretty much drain everything left in the sands around here."