Archive for the ‘#dakotaaccess’ Tag

Another Good One   Leave a comment

Donald Trump signed useful executive orders in his first days of office. Consider this to be a companion piece to my Economics in One Lesson series.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/01/24/trump-gives-green-light-to-dakota-access-keystone-xl-oil-pipelines/?utm_term=.0ae9e8057de9

President Trump signed executive orders Tuesday clearing the way for the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines to move forward. He also signed an executive order to expedite environmental reviews of other infrastructure projects, lamenting the existing “incredibly cumbersome, long, horrible permitting process.”

“The regulatory process in this country has become a tangled up mess,” he said.

This does not mean the Keystone XL project will be restarted as it was mothballed sometime ago, but it does bode well for the Dakota Access project. It remains unclear how Trump’s order will expedite environmental reviews. Many of those reviews are statutory and the legislation that created them cannot be swept aside by an executive order.

Trump said that both pipeline projects would be subject to renegotiation. In an Oval Office signing before reporters, the president said he would want any new projects to make use of American steel.

“I am very insistent that if we’re going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipe should be made in the United States,” he said.

The orders will have an immediate impact in North Dakota, where the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners wants to complete the final 1,100-foot piece of the 1,172-mile pipeline route that runs under Lake Oahe. The pipeline would carry oil from the booming shale oil reserves in North Dakota to refineries and pipeline networks in Illinois.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other Native American groups have been protesting the project, which they claim say would imperil their water supplies and disturb sacred burial and archaeological sites. The tribe had hundreds of opportunities over the last five years to bring up their concerns and instead chose to wait to hold a violent protest against a lawfully permitted project. The Army Corp of Engineers called a halt to the project in December to consider alternative routes, which would require the pipe that already been laid to be torn up and relocated.

The executive order from Trump on the Keystone XL pipeline threatens to undo a major decision by President Obama, who said that the project would contribute to climate change because it would carry tar sands crude which is especially greenhouse gas intensive because of the energy it takes to extract the thick crude.

TransCanada, the Calgary-based project owner, has said it would be interested in reviving the pipeline. But it was unclear what Trump’s caution about renegotiation would mean for TransCanada’s plans. Originally, TransCanada had planned to get about 65 percent of the steel pipe from U.S. manufacturers but other supplies from Canada.

On Tuesday, Trump said: “From now on we’re going to be making pipeline in the United States. We build the pipelines, we want to build the pipe. We’re going to put a lot of workers, a lot of skilled workers, back to work. We will build our own pipeline, we will build our own pipes, like we used to in the old days.”

Referring to comments Trump has made during the campaign and after the election, “He was talking about that being a big priority. That’s one of those ones where I think that the energy sector and our natural resources are an area where I think the president is very, very keen on making sure that we maximize our use of natural resources to America’s benefit.”

“It’s good for economic growth, it’s good for jobs, and it’s good for American energy,” Spicer added.

As news of the move surfaced Tuesday morning, oil industry officials hailed it as overdue.

“Making American energy great again starts with infrastructure projects like these that move resources safely and efficiently,” said Stephen Brown, vice president of federal government affairs at Tesoro Companies.

“We are pleased to see the new direction being taken by this administration to recognize the importance of our nation’s energy infrastructure by restoring the rule of law in the permitting process that’s critical to pipelines and other infrastructure projects,” Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said.

Environmentalists, by contrast, vowed to continue to fight the two pipelines.

Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard noted in a statement that a broad coalition of opponents-“Indigenous communities, ranchers, farmers, and climate activists” –managed to block the projects in the past and would not give up now.

“We all saw the incredible strength and courage of the water protectors at Standing Rock, and the people around the world who stood with them in solidarity,” she said. “We’ll stand with them again if Trump tries to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline, or any other fossil fuel infrastructure project, back to life.”

“We will resist this with all of our power and we will continue to build the future the world wants to see,” she added.

Bill McKibben, founder of the activist group 350.org, which has fought both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, said the decision to allow the projects to move forward ignores the massive opposition expressed both through public protests and in comments to government agencies.

“The world’s climate scientists and its Nobel laureates explained over and over why it was unwise and immoral,” McKibben said in a statement. “In one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump ignores all that in his eagerness to serve the oil industry. It’s a dark day for a reason, but we will continue to fight.”

A key to renewing any economy is use of natural resources. There are already several pipelines that run within a mile or two of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many of these have been in place for years and have not caused any degradation of water quality. There is a lot of silly ideas about pipelines — that they are inherently unsafe is one of them. The other is the idea that if we just stop using oil, we’ll be able to make the switch to renewables … easy-peasy.

Image result for images of trans-alaska pipelineThat’s a lie from the pit of hell!

There is a reason that until the massive subsidies of the Obama administration came into play that renewable energy had not exceeded 7% of the energy sector. It’s called economics.

Solar panels use so much oil in their manufacturing process (they’re made of plastic carbide after all) that it takes 20 years of use to offset the carbon fuel that would have been used to make electricity instead. What’s more, solar panels are so inefficient in converting solar energy into usable electricity that, if you paid full price for them (what they’re actually worth not what the Obama subsidies provide) that you would not break even on your electric bill even in the sunny Southwest for a decade or more. In Alaska, where I live, solar panels aren’t especially useful for most of the winter (because of reduced daylight), so solar panels here don’t pay back their actual cost within their serviceable lifetime.

In keeping with my series on Economics in One Lessonit seems like a good idea to look at the seen and unseen costs of denying the pipelines. Environmentalists are the special interest groups described in Hazlitt’s book. They see the money that was saved … the environmental protection … the “salvation” of the tribal life style … but they don’t see the secondary costs … or if they do, they don’t care.

Dakota Access will bring Bakkan oil to refineries without using trucks and rail. Pipelines are a manifestly safer way of transporting volatile fluids than are rail and truck. The risks of crashes far outweigh the risks of spills. While spills do happen, they happen far less often and they can be mitigated much more easily. What if a truck or rail car were to spill going through a big city? It’s safer for the public and it’s safer for the environment to transport oil and natural gas via pipeline.

And oil will still be necessary whether or not these pipelines are built. The modern world runs on energy. Try to envision every bit of unused land in the United States filled with solar panels and wind mills and it still not being enough. Unless we get over our fear of nuclear energy, that is our future – not vista without the wink of solar panels or the strobe of turbine blades … and still unable to power our current population, much less any future growth.

More, the curtailment of oil drilling and transportation drives up electric and home and motor fuel costs. We don’t see what families don’t do or buy because they are paying exorbitant energy costs. It’s easy to see they’re driving less, but much harder to see the ballet school that closed because the students’ parents couldn’t afford to transport their kids to lessons.

Refusing to pump oil in the United States leaves us at the mercy of the Middle East. OPEC can wreck our economy by severely curtailing its production or, conversely, pumping like crazy. There’s something to be said about using the resources we have on hand.

“B-b-but the US only has a limited supply of oil” someone will protest.

Thanks to fracking, that limited supply of oil is a 300-year supply at current usage. That’s a long time to develop an alternative that works better than solar or wind — or that uses those sources much better than the current technology does.

In the meantime, a working economy requires energy that is cost-affordable and easily available and Trump’s executive orders begin to roll back the foolish Obama administration rules that were slowing the economy down.

I don’t like executive orders, by the way. I don’t think the president ought to have that power. However, so far Trump has used the power of the pen to loosen the bonds that have been holding industry back. You might notice that he doesn’t appear to have spent any government money. He’s made it possible for business to spend its own money for our economic benefit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted January 24, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in economics

Tagged with , ,

False Protest   Leave a comment

Since August, my social media timeline has been fairly well-inundated by updates on the Dakota Access Pipeline protest near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

I have family in North Dakota. My mom grew up in Dickey County. My grandfather used to work roundups in the area we’re discussing. A cousin owns land up in the Bakkans and has expanded his business to a town in the area. So, of course, I discussed the situation with him and he sent me some information about it.

At the same time, my cousins on the Res — the other side of my mom’s family who live in Oklahoma — have been sending me posts where the builders of the Dakota Access are the default villains in this whole situation. Add to that all the people who have jumped on the bandwagon of the “poor beleaguered Indians who are having their land stolen” and my irritation meter is starting to tick over into the red.

Protests always get the media attention. People are drawn to civil disobedience that seem to pit David against Goliath. It’s an American tradition to accomplish great social good by waving signs and refusing to move. Idealistic sacrifice for a grand cause is a powerful narrative.

Big corporations, like the one building the pipeline, cannot count on media or public support, especially not in a day when the public is weary of crony deals amid powerful elites crushing the rights of others. “Why should anyone take the side of wealthy entitled bullies?” is how the narrative plays out.

The problem with this narrative is that it doesn’t apply to this particular situation. The real story is a contest between a commercial enterprise that is respecting the property rights of the Standing Rock Sioux in its effort to vastly improve the energy infrastructure of the Bakkans and bring new prosperity to the area and a coalition of interest groups that couldn’t give a care about the Standing Rock Sioux.

Amy Goodman of the protest group Democracy Now broke into a construction site on private land and, apparently unaware of the 5th Amendment, conveniently filmed the crime for our enlightenment. The film with commentary and other related videos is available to view here.

If you follow all the videos, you’ll see how Goodman captured Sioux trespassers walking in formation, beating security dogs with sticks, which resulted in injury to at least one dog. These dogs were not “set lose” on the protesters. The dogs’ job is to protect the equipment when humans are not available to do so. The dogs were responding to trespassers as they have been trained to do … as my yellow Lab would attempt to do if you broke into my house when I wasn’t around. Back in August, this breakin was reported as the trespassers being the ones attacked while passively strolling along, but the film shows them being active and aggressive.

Related imageHere we are, two months later and the civil unrest in Cannon Ball is escalating to dangerous levels as the protesters increasing work to damage infrastructure and possibly harm themselves in the process. The destruction has grown from cutting a wire fence to break into the construction side to setting trucks on fire and rendering the bridge the trucks were on unusable and unstable. The aggression has heighted from sticks and flag poles to guns, Molotov cocktails and improved explosive devices made of propane cylinders.A woman lost her arm and the protesters claimed the police somehow did it while deploying beanbag loads for crowd-control, but there’s reason to believe it was actually a homemade bomb created by the protesters. The FBI is investigating.

I would note that there’s about 300 protesters and about 20 cops to contain them, so it’s a fraught situation.

So, what about the claims that police are using water cannons on the protesters. I suppose you could consider it partially true. When police used fire hoses to douse the burning trucks, the 400 or so protesters who started the trucks on fire and gathered around them did get wet. There are many photos and videos available on line (including a heavily-edited Standing Rock protest site photo that crops out the blazing fire in the background) that show protesters atop piles of burning rubble, dancing in the water stream.

My North Dakota cousin says the hope is that with winter coming, this protest will die off.

It’s important to understand that the Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit for this pipeline, which runs in parallel with existing pipelines. In other words, this is not pristine wilderness where cultural artifacts (if any exist) have been undisturbed. This is a major infrastructure corridor. The Army Corps of Engineers proposed a December 5 2016 deadline for protesters to remove themselves from a rancher’s leased land.

Most people really don’t know what to believe, but find the professionally edited campaign videos by the environmental groups driving the protest to be very moving. After all, they have music and dramatic imagery and imaginative location names like “Red Warrior Camp.”

 

 

Please understand that its no longer just the Standing Rock Sioux involved in this thing. Similar to how Wounded Knee started with a small group, this has drawn support from very far away and there is some large money circulating.

Related imageMany of the Standing Rock Sioux who are involved in protest say their tribal administration did not adequately inform them of the project. That’s kind of hard to believe because according to the Army Corps of Engineers, project leaders participated in 559 meetings in communities along the pipeline route. There were 43 regulatory hearings, public meetings and open houses where people could share their concerns with public officials. Regarding specific tribal concerns, the Army Corps of Engineers participated in 389 meetings with 55 tribes. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe itself had nearly a dozen meetings with the Corps — they refused or did not show up to several others.

I work in a field where public meetings are required for every project we do and they are well advertised because the law specifies what is required. We work in Alaska Native villages a lot and they show up … so long as we bring pizza and soda (sorry, that is a truth that makes me snicker).

In the case of Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault, who failed to show up seven times to scheduled meetings, it is possible he did the common Native American thing of thinking he could wait until sometime in the future to protest. Sorry, that’s another observation from a fringe-insider. Reservation Indians always seem to think they have decades to deal with a situation. It is possible the DAPL project moved too fast for him. On the other hand, as I suggested in an earlier blog post, this might have been willful obstruction in hopes of a more profitable outcome. Tribal government is often quite lucrative for the tribal administration.

Archambault proved completely derelict in identifying sacred sites for the planners. Why would he do that? I don’t know the man, but his sister worked for the Obama administration until May 2016 and there is this photo of Archambault with the Obamas back in June 2014 … right about the time the public meeting process was going on. You don’t need a tinfoil hat to think promises might have been made … as they were when President Obama visited Western Alaska, a mess we’ll be dealing with for a decade or more.

Other protesters include white, middle-class, urban singles seeking adventure … rebels without a cause who are turning this into something like a Burning Man party.

“Just wanna note some white people – just showed up to Standing Rock – who want to spend donations on fluoride free water instead of tap.” — Nihiixoohoothitho (@teeteeseiht) November 13, 2016

In other words, they don’t know what they’re protesting, but if there’s some good ganga involved, they’re there!

Not all the Standing Rock Sioux agree with the protesters. Native communities have much to be concerned about today. Jobs would be nice and so would better education for their kids. The pipeline is part of a complex of pipelines that cross the Missouri River in that basic area. This pipeline poses no different threat than any of the others. It will provide a safe, efficient way to get Bakkan oil to the refinery without using trucks and tank cars, which are demonstratively less safe.

Putting on my tinfoil hat for just a moment, I think this was all planned back in 2014. Obama told Archambault to ignore the Corps meetings and promised to do exactly what he is doing now. Why? Because commercial enterprises like the construction company building the DAPL have bottom lines and they can’t afford to wait forever to build this thing. Their financing goes away if they do that. The regulatory system that pipelines require is lengthy, complex and expensive, but companies like this know how to shepherd their application to permit. Had the Standing Rock Sioux showed up at the public meetings to voice their concerns, they would have had their concerns addressed. The burial sites would have been protected, there would have been excessive and unnecessary safety protocols put in place to assure the construction did not contaminate the water. And, ultimately, the pipeline would have been built … just like the other pipelines in the area.

But violent protests … that has a propaganda cache that the environmentalists can use. President Obama knows that. And he knew that whoever  the President-elect was come this fall, he would still be president and he could make his last months in office memorable. And, in the meantime, the pipeline company is slowly being bled dry by these protests, so that it is entirely possible that a perfectly legal pipeline, planned with great care to avoid conflict with stakeholders, won’t be built because the company won’t be able to sustain financing.

Yeah, it’s the unethical world that we live in.

 

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