RON SCHALOW: Oil Companies Aren’t For North Dakotans To Love

Suddenly, we’ve seen multiple bum-kissing letters-to-the-editor for big carbon. It was the oil tax thing that got them going. The North Dakota Republicans voted to let big oil keep the gift of a lower tax rate that they maniacally bestowed on the impoverished industry when the R’s slipped the dollars past the goalie in last days of the 2015 session.

Young Republican and former candidate Sierra Heitkamp and current nitwit and former loudmouth legislator Roscoe Streyle were the latest to chime in. Different Republican politicians have been writing ALL CAPS letters-to-the-editor since the heist. They’re using the “you can’t see what you’re looking at” defense. Or it’s a tax cut unless we pass it together with this other thing. Then it’s reform. And I’m an acrobat.

The Fargo Forum has Rob Port, their fulltime oily carnival barker, on the payroll just in case a positive spin is needed after a major spill or a publicized employee death. There is nothing negative the industry can do that can’t be rationalized by Port.

The prelobbied “Team NDGOP” needed to calm the bad vibes and posit that the oil companies deserved the money more than any schmo who just lives and works in N.D. So, we get the “Praise be oil and hallelujah for all that it has given this state, which is everything. Can I get an amen?”

With the 1.5 percent per barrel price reduction in the state extraction tax, plus the Trump tax scam that gave corporations a huge 13 percent tax cut and the tax benefits that go along with being an oil company, we might owe them a box of chocolates and some roses on top of it all.

I doubt that the 1.5 percent means anything to Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, whose biggest cost variables are price and shipping. Hamm was the finance chairman of Kevin Cramer’s 2018 Senate campaign, so there’s no fishy smell lingering in North Dakota politics at all.

But that 1.5 percent could have helped the hungry and homeless people in North Dakota, or the mentally ill, or the disabled, or helped finance a gusher of other needs. As if. But we must think fondly of the billionaires in the world and the investment class, or they might leave us like the NFL Colts left Baltimore — sneaky-like. Or Trump-like. Vapor trail.

Crude oil only exists due to millions of flukes taking place over the course of millions of years. A friend of mine says that the Bakken stuff is “really cooked.” Ours formed due to a jillion random series of events. If you can get some of the bubbly right out of the tap and pour it into a beer glass, it looks like Grain Belt. Downing a shot will make you do 200 Curly Shuffles and eat a crowbar. Then you die. I would assume.

That homo sapiens won the battle of the bipeds wasn’t a foregone conclusion, either. I think a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA is still a thing among some Europeans and Asians, and the Neanderthal portion only causes raccoons to square dance, so we’re letting it slide. They don’t need to get deported to the imaginary island of Neander.

That we became a country was no sure thing, so the Louisiana Purchase wasn’t preordained. Neither was the government’s decision to move the Native occupants off their land and then draw inaccurate lines based on some negotiated choice of longitude and latitude coordinates, I’m sure. The Red River was easy.

And then for some reason, some or all of your ancestors moved to northwest North Dakota to get some government land because they farmed and/or kept animals. A lot of Larsens rolled an east with the die. Just stop at this one river or else “something will happen” some guy told them. Much of the dirt stayed in the same family until today.

If your great great0-grandfather chose the haberdasher profession for silly hairline reasons, he had to pay for retail space. Farmers did not. So 84 generations later, you’re broke because GGG decided to haberdash, depriving descendants of big oil checks. He had the hab but couldn’t hack the dash.

And through all of the twists over millions of years, oil was found under land that was chosen in the 1800s as a good spot for barley, with no notion of any wells except for water.

It was all a series of random events that decided who would be rich and which state would have the best spots to drill.

Every citizen didn’t make a fortune, and it’s not as though all should. Rules are rules. It’s wherever the chicken poops and then you wait for something jiggly and cold to trickle down the back of your neck from great heights.

Oil companies didn’t bring this about. Physics did. We would have figured things out other ways to move fast with a roomy backseat, too, had gasoline not existed. I’m positive.

It’s not complicated, my disdain.

Energy companies exist to make money and to stifle competition. That’s it. Corporations are not people, but if they were, they would be sociopaths. They don’t care if you appreciate them or love them. The last time oil left, we didn’t even get a card.

So, come on in, do what you want and take what you came for. And pay what we tell you for taxes. But no. That’s not enough. These poor Republican people were forced to write those crazy letters to express their support for the most profitable business ever to exist.

Must somebody be offering their total fealty and unblinking idolatry every minute? Why does this particular industry need to be constantly adored? There’s no kinship for their part, only the blackest credit cards.

The corporations are going to do what they are going to do, and nobody in power in Bismarck is going to stop them from doing anything. Many are in cahoots.

Globally, our protection of oil interests militarily cost us all in many ways. Our trillion dollar military. The big shiny one. It was always for our national interests, we were told, or weren’t told. But we’re stilling selling our crude to foreign countries and importing it from other countries.

I don’t trust them. Oil companies have lied to and misled citizens around the world for ages. The greenhouse effect and CO2’s part in it have been known since the late 1800s, which understandably had no effect on the business practices of any industry at the time. Who knew?

But by the 1970s the oil barons knew for sure. And they lied. And their lobbyists turned the issue into a political one and they hired blogger hacks like Rob Port to misinform the public. Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House roof. Ronald Reagan had them removed, and that was that.

“They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic:

  • ‘In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,’ Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later, he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees — a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today. He continued to warn that ‘present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.’ In other words, Exxon needed to act.” —  Scientific American

Nationally, the North Dakota Petroleum Council told us it was safe to ship Bakken crude oil by train even if the load also included propane, butane, methane, ethane and etc. Oh, and a washback recipe of fracking chemicals adds to the flavor.

  • “Earlier this month, the North Dakota Petroleum Council released a study that concluded ‘Bakken crude oil meets all specifications for transport using existing DOT-111 tank cars’ that transport most of the crude.” — USA Today  Aug. 15, 2014

And they decided to go with this putrid pile of unreality they wrote AFTER the huge explosions outside of Luther, Okla., the deaths of 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, towering fireballs near Aliceville, Ala., and Casselton, N.D. Willful blindness is the only truthful explanation.

And only months before the NDPC gathering, a Bakken oil train derailed and exploded in  Lynchburg, Va. Luckily for pedestrians and buildings, the fiery tanker cars tipped into the James River. Most of the punctured tankers were the supposedly safer CPC-1232 models.

Tell the people of Lac-Megantic about your specifications study. There were mushroom clouds and 1,000 firefighters got the call. The DOT-111 was engineered to haul corn syrup. They are soup cans.

I’m glad that good people get good-paying jobs, but I don’t have to like who you work for.

Oil workers, the ones in the physical job department, used to come into my bar in the early 1980s. They were the same as anybody. I imagine today’s oil workers are just regular people, too.

There will be more jobs. We’ll need power. Supply. Demand.

As for the smart alecks. No individual has had any effect on the mess we are in now, not when we’re pumping 40 billion tons of just CO2 into the atmosphere in a years time. So stow the, “But I bet you drive a car,” nonsense. “You should ride a horse, you phony.” “Does that ecoterrorist know that her coat buttons are 2 percent oil-based plastic?”

Three things on my list so far. War, global warming and sending explosive trains throughout the country and endangering millions.

Those should be enough reasons not like big oil. But there’s more.

The overabundant flaring is bad for all kinds of reasons. One is that methane is worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas by a mile. Money is the driving force. I couldn’t explain the economics, but it’s likely the petroleum people could explain the economics and could make some adjustments, but they have no natural predators, so they push the limits. No, wait. I can explain the economics. It’s based on numbers.

I have a theory about a percent the excessive flaring. The pipeline companies have rules. Mostly about how much explosive liquid gases they will allow to be mixed with crude. There’s only so much danger a pipeline company can afford to take.

So if we’re sending more of the oily concoction by pipe, more gases will have to be flashed off. The Bakken dudes failed to construct the infrastructure and buy the equipment needed to rigorously separate the various explosive gases from the crude. It doesn’t appear the equipment will ever show. They decided not to spend the money needed to do a proper job.

And they’re using fewer trains. BNSF will pretty much pull whatever you tether to one of their engines, so the flaring can go down and the chance goes up that a Bakken oil train will explode and the odds of killing thousands of people can rise up to the yet to be objectionable cost-benefit level in the lives versus profit analysis.

The train wrecks were all accidents. Bolts loosen. Axles crack. But they keep derailing, and have regularly, since their invention. The state and oil lobbyists knew the inevitable would happen. It wasn’t much of a puzzle.

Moving on. This is a one-time harvest. You hear that a lot. But the harvest may be shorter than anticipated out of necessity. When real leadership gets back in charge, it will be a race to save a lot of things that live on the crunchy shell of the planet. I know the oil lords want to suck the Bakken dry, but they’re running out of time, and we need to suck every dime out them while we can.

Because the demand for petroleum will drop precipitously and it will be toodle-oo to a lot the oil production worldwide. It will sit thousands of feet down, keeping company with seas of once fresh wastewater. We’re going to wish we still had that water up top and fresh someday soon.

Many people were lured to the state with a promise of jobs. Get in the pickup with the last hundred dollars and a Sears card, pot of gold, type of luring. Maybe someone should have been a little more specific their wording with these unfortunate people, so we don’t end up with Ford F-150 sleepers in 20-below weather., which did happen and nobody did anything about it. The shelter was full.

Deaths and injuries in the field went up sharply, due to the hiring of unqualified people, poor training, poor management at the well and poor management in the middle and top. It was hurried and then rushed.

Most of the infrastructure the oil boys and their sycophantic choir claim to have paid for was to accommodate the needs of the drillers and to repair what they wrecked, like roads.

When I was a kid, I walked the hills, coulees and fields around Minot, regularly. But I never needed hip boots, a gas mask, and a Geiger counter. There has been so much illegal dumping of human waste, saltwater and radiative socks. More than has been reported, unless you believe all illegal activities were documented.

I don’t care for the spills. Most of them stayed on the pad, as far as we know, but many barrels didn’t. Pipeline leaks don’t add to the richness of our soil, either.

Criminals followed the money with drugs, prostitution, gun crimes and down the list.

Due to the rise of apartment and lot rents, many of the people who resided in Williston, N.D., for example, since they were born when owners and out-of-state investors raised the fee to park their mobile homes to three times the regular cost, people were run out of the towns they made. It’s called gouging, but nobody in Bismarck lifted a finger to help our own citizens.

And If you don’t believe there’s plenty of food, liquor and money being exchanged for the closing of one eye, on a Tuesday morning, well, I don’t have anything to sell you, and that’s your business, but avoid extravagant purchases for a while. Everywhere there is money, there is greed. Even in North Dakota. It’s one of those things you know is true. The deep state is where I would look.

All we had back in the olden days for any kind of in-depth news were the Time magazines in the high school library. The oil industry wasn’t considered a good actor in the world back then, either. One disaster after another.

And before that, there was blood, as demonstrated by Daniel Day-Lewis, and more destruction.

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