Ken Johnson
Connecting the dots

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November 15, 2012
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JOHNSON: New slice of same old baloney

The wedding was splendid, wasn't it?

Looks like the honeymoon ended three days later.

Obama carried the nation and got a second chance to build a better America on Tuesday, the payoff for brilliant politicking. Friday, he picked up a handful of sand and threw it in faces of the House leadership. He shared that he was inviting them to the White House this week to negotiate a solution to the "fiscal cliff."

Then he added he would not settle for anything less than his "tax on the rich."

Too bad!

We were all hoping we would see a new President, leading a nation and not just a political party.

Does it feel like we're getting a new slice of the same old baloney?

The Prez says he has a mandate from voters to do this.

His way or the highway.

Pretty amazing that we get arrogance and importance, plus grand posturing for the mainstream media. Did you hope for change? Like reasoned calmness. Someone who'd actually cross the aisle and work together for America?

The general impression across this country is that we don't need class warfare; we need a full revise of the bloated, unfair tax code.

If instead all we get is more campaign politics, a repeat of the past four years. We have sure picked a sorry path! Hope it finds a new direction soon.

On a local front, two or three writers, in letters and in columns, have objected to the Chamber and others who dared suggest the BLM was making a terrible mistake by reversing the formerly OK oil shale lease acreage lands. The approved lands were reduced by over 90%. The BLM endorsed the acreage being reduced to postage stamp size.

For example, "Progressive" Konola repeats the standard line - there is no technology that is commercially viable today, so don't lease until the research is done. Catch 22? No lease until you have a proven process for lands that won't be available to lease?

She cites Estonia as a horrible example of the misuse of oil shale, which "leave(s) huge piles of tailings that are causing massive environmental damage."

With due respect, this is the same glib overstatement that tries to justify blocking ANY kind of resource development. "Protect the environment" is a wonderful straw man for keeping anything of any kind from happening. Meanwhile the country goes broke and the price of gas hovers toward $5 a gallon.

Estonia burns oil shale in electric generation plants. Just like coal only REALLY low grade. (Our own coal-fired plants are heavy polluters and contribute a huge amount of carbon to the atmosphere.) Sort of a "duh" for making a factual comparison.

It also seems like the lease payments might help the amount everyone - Konola, me and all of you - owe as our share of the national spending spree. That apparently isn't in the leasing equation.

The real issue is a lack of energy policy for the nation, and a plan to develop every source of fuel our growing population is going to need; oil from shale could be one of the many sources to help bridge the next 30 years as we, year by year, move toward "green."

The current "leases" were invited by the government in 2005. The energy companies have spent millions to meet regulations, impact reports, and all the other hoops. Now we change the ground rules right in the middle and don't even apologize. It is a shameful way to run a country since, of all things, businesses need some consistency so they can figure the costs they face in pioneering new technology.

The "lock it up" folks are betraying everyone else. Haven't we played "the sky MAY be falling" too long?

History is a great friend if we take a look at it. President Jimmy Carter's administration got us started on "Energy Independence." Locally, we got the start of a long-sought oil shale industry.

Then, back in 1982, when Exxon pulled out of Parachute on Black Sunday (and killed OUR economy for years), commercially viable production was about to start; Exxon had spent over $1 billion to get to that point. Instead, it just walked away.

It was the start of the Reagan administration. The political decision was to have us quit trying to fend for ourselves and go back to buying "cheap" Arab oil. Despite the low prices, Union Oil was following up on oil shale experiments that started in the 1920s.

It's reasoned, step-by-step program over many years led to the Parachute "demonstration" retort they fired in 1986. Union Oil was actually producing about 10,000 barrels a day from their retort at Parachute. The Department of Defense was the buyer at $39 a barrel. That contract continued until 1991 before DOD paid Union a lump sum to end the contract. DOD could buy oil cheaper from foreign countries.

There was nothing wrong with the product or the price. The environment was not ruined. The whole process didn't use much water, which Union owned anyway. Only world oil economics, the flip-flopping federal policies, and continuing lack of any consistency in our national goals, all politically driven, ended it. When those beneficent Arabs cut THEIR price in 1982 to drive out any competition, nearly everybody in the oil shale business ran for cover. Of course, that bargain Arab price didn't last and we have more than paid triple for that brief pleasure! ALL to our detriment!

Occidental and a couple of companies were nearing production, but quit. Union continued, and PROVED shale could be produced, at a profit, at that $39 per barrel price. In those six years they produced and sold 5 million barrels.

The point is that it was NOT experimental any longer by 1991, and the companies haven't stopped doing research on improving the methods. In ALL forms of extraction.

The "lease lands" argument is just another in along line of government betrayals. We should be delighted the Chamber tried to shed some light on this fiasco.

It was dumb in 1982 and in 1991 to quit trying to become energy self-sufficient.

Today is even dumber. Let today's prices at the pump remind all of us the next time we fill up a car or truck.

Ken is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.


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The Post Independent Updated Nov 15, 2012 02:25PM Published Nov 15, 2012 02:23PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.