Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

by jhwygirl

This is a public service announcement. Northern Plains Resource Council is sponsoring a panel in Helena tomorrow night. If ya’all are so inclined, it’s a worth discussion with some well-informed panelists.

Democratizing the Grid with Clean Energy
Thursday, February 6
6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Helena College Lecture Hall, Room 125

Join Sleeping Giant Citizens Council for a panel discussion on renewable energy.

· Learn about available rebates, tax incentives, and how you can save money AND start producing clean energy.

· Discuss policy changes to increase Montana’s renewable energy portfolio and ongoing advocacy efforts (and how to push back against fossil fuel interests).

· Hear success stories from homeowners who have installed small scale renewable energy projects.

Panelists will include representatives from Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Montana Environmental Information Center, Sage Mountain Center, and local homeowners with renewable energy installations.

This event is free, but donations will be accepted.

Questions? Contact Page at
page@northernplains.org

by jhwygirl

Sen. Debby Barrett’s bill to repeal last session’s eminent domain debacle had it’s hearing in Senate Energy and Telecommunications yesterday. A roomful of people, with overflow out into the hall, testified overwhelmingly in support of SB180

Northwestern Energy’s attorney Mr. Fitzpatrick spent a significant amount of time – after great theatrical preparation for his opposition testimony – continuing to blur the lines between merchant lines and distribution lines.

Distribution lines being lines which actually serve public uses here in Montana. Public uses that are regulated by the PSC. Public uses that have an elected official answering for the public uses that have, at times, been reason for an eminent domain taking of private property.

2011’s eminent domain bill handed handed the power of eminent domain to private corporations for the purposes of economic development. That, my friends, is the equivalent of the famously decried Kelo v. City of New London, which held that a private property could be condemned by developers in the name of economic gain and tax revenue.

Below the fold is Sen. Debby Barrett’s proponent statement and Missoula Sen. David Wanzenried’s comments submitted to the public record for SB180.

Before I do that, though, I’m going to provide the email addresses of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee and ask you all to write these guys and tell them that keeping eminent domain power in the hands of private corporations in the name of jobs or economic gain or the guise of some sort of public beneficial review during the Large Facilities Siting Act review is wrong. Tell them eminent domain is a necessary component of government, but that the power belongs with the government and not in the hands of a private corporation. Here are the emails:
ronarthun@gmail.com, robyn@robyndriscoll.com, jessmann@mt.gov, vjack@centurytel.net, jergeson4senator@yahoo.com, ljones@mtbus.net,kaufmann@mt.net, cliff@larsenusa.com, Jason@priest2010.com, ajolson@midrivers.com, tropila@mt.net, cvvincent@hotmail.com,ewalker@edwalker2010.com

Barrett and Wanz’s testimony below…. Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

Can sustainability reduce crime?

The Bakken oil boom is drawing some less-than-desirable elements to Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota.  Of course, crime in boom towns is nothing new: think Henry Plummer, the vigilantes and Alder Gulch.

And apparently we haven’t evolved much from gold camps of the 1800s — environmentally or culturally.  One can still see the mountains of tailings from the dredges that plied Alder Creek over a hundred years ago.  Or visit the Virginia City Museum where Clubfoot George’s clubfoot, looking a bit like a standing rib roast, is on display (apparently he was dug up after being hanged by the vigilantes and his foot was removed for posterity).

And what have we learned, environmentally, since those days? Witness the Berkeley Pit, Colstrip, ASARCO, Basin, the Barker-Hughesville mining district … (and who really knows what all those chemicals pumped deep into the ground in the name of fracking will do to the water tables in the Bakken Play).

But it’s the cultural degradation that’s in the news these days: crime, infrastructure issues, housing shortages, Walmart parking lots filled to capacity with RVs, overcrowded schools and man camps.  And, according to Dennis Portra, the mayor of the metropolis of Bainville, Mont., on the North Dakota border, “Korean prostitutes parking their RV in Bainville for a summer.”

Now I’m pretty sure there’s no way you can sustainably drill for oil or gas but there has to be a more sensible approach.  A permit system that slows development comes to mind, more regulation of where, when and how.  A greater pay-to-play system so that the impacts on schools and neighborhoods and highways and, well, everything is at least somewhat mitigated.  Make sure that there is land, sacred land, that just isn’t touched.  And slow the development way down so that locals get first crack at the jobs to reduce the influx of alleged murderers like these two or this guy.

I realize that we aren’t going to go cold turkey on our oil addiction but really, this cyclical boom and bust is absurd.  How’s this helping to stabilize oil prices or getting us to look at alternatives to an ever dwindling supply of oil? What’s the Williston Basin going to look like when the boom plays out in 20 years?  This is one bad economic model.

And now they’re sinking test wells further west: Choteau, Lewistown, on the lands of the Blackfeet Nation:

“This entire region of the Rockies holds untapped potential that can contribute much needed supplies to help meet U.S. demand,” says Marathon spokesman Paul Weeditz.  The Rockies, apparently, were put here for oil, gas and mineral extraction to meet our never-ending needs.

We really need to get a handle on this, for the sake of a sustainable energy future, for our environment and for our way of life.  It could even put a dent in our homicide rate.

by Pete Talbot

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis

Pearls Before Swine

This is in response to the Polish Wolf’s post over at Intelligent Discontent.  While some of his stats are interesting, his premise is flawed.  Basically he says that the 99% are responsible for their economic plight by shopping at WalMart, buying imported clothing and purchasing gasoline.  There’s a grain of truth to this, I suppose, but I’m thinking that the policies of the last few decades have more to do with wealth inequalities: economic policies that favor Wall Street over Main Street, Free Trade agreements that benefit corporations more than workers, and energy policies that promote carbon-based fuels over renewables and conservation.

Montana Supreme Court rules

Or maybe I should say the Montana Supreme Court rocks!  I certainly have more respect for the majority of Montana Supremes than the majority of SCOTUS justices.  In a 5-2 vote, the justices ruled against the kooky triumvirate of Western Tradition Partnership, Champion Painting Inc. and Gary Marbut’s Montana Shooting Sports Association Inc.  Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, Montana justices don’t believe corporations should be able to buy and sell elections.

Look up pompous ass in the dictionary

And you’ll see a picture of George Will.  In his latest column, he promotes the Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian tar sands and fracking in general.  He pooh-poohs climate change, the EPA, the National Labor Relations Board and student loans.  He believes “conservatives should stride confidently into 2012” … “because progressivism exists to justify a few people bossing around most people … ”  He has that backwards, of course, but because he uses a lot of two-dollar words, people think he’s smart.  He’s not.

And locally

Usually reliable reporter Gwen Florio reports on a woman who’s attempting to disqualify Justice of the Peace John Odlin.  This stems from two misdemeanor charges against the woman for “community decay.”  What the hell does that mean?  Did she beat up on some curbs and gutters?  Forget to paint her porch?  Dump raw sewage into a neighborhood park?  I’m dying to know.  Anyway, the Montana Supremes call her case against Odlin “frivolous.”

by jhwygirl

Some good news from out near Hood River.

Yesterday the Condit dam was breeched by PacifiCorp, freeing the river for the famous Pacific Northwest steelhead and chinook fisheries.

There’s some pretty dramatic footage of the breech to be found around the innertubes – I’ll offer this video from The Oregonian:

Pretty impressive, huh?

The University of Montana Geomorphology Lab were there for the scene – but instead of watching the dynamite do its deed, the went to watch the rebirth of the White Salmon River. Here is a 2-hour time lapse of the White Salmon’s rebirth – and the draining of lake:

Somewhere I read this morning that it had been estimated it would take 6 hours to drain.

UM student Josh Epstein was there in the group, and he has 3 videos posted. Here’s One, Two, and Three.

Fascinating. The Condit dam is the second tallest dam to be removed in the U.S. The Seattle Times had a great piece today reporting on some of the history of the dam.

BPA, for its part, had to say goodbye to the Condit, which was able to generate power about 7,000 homes in the northwest.

While hydropower seems to be their predominate source for power, it appears BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) is relying more and more on wind and biomass. This map shows their power generation locations and sources.

I tried to look for a similar resource at Northwestern Energy, but couldn’t find one.

~~~~~
Free the sturgeon of the Kootanai

by jhwygirl

Don Brown in a landowner near Fort Peck who will be directly affected by the proposed KeystoneXL pipeline. He’s been a vocal opponent to the Keystone XL pipeline since early on. He’s criticized Max Baucus’s attempts at circumventing legal process for the pipeline, and more recently, he signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama that included signature of affected landowners in 5 states.

Keystone XL pipeline will utilized eminent domain to obtain the land this Canadian company needs to transport its Athabasca tar sand oil from Canada across the State of Montana and down to Texas.

This weekend Don Brown asks Montanans whether this pipeline is in our national interests. I ask whether it is in Montana’s:

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and President Barack Obama have a decision to make soon — whether TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is in the “national interest.”
As a landowner along the route who has much to lose when this pipeline comes through, I hope that our decision-makers are absolutely clear about whether this pipeline is in the national interest when it is permitted, but I think there are questions that still haven’t been answered.
Since TransCanada is a foreign corporation, is this pipeline in the national interest? Since this pipeline goes to a port on the Gulf Coast, and they already have a pipeline going to a refinery in Illinois (Keystone I pipeline), that would lead me to believe they plan on exporting the product carried on the Keystone XL. Is that in the national interest? And tar sands, which Keystone XL is going to be carrying, are especially corrosive, and the Keystone I pipeline has already had 14 leaks in about a year of operation — is that in our national Interest?
Should we just be the nation where the pipe crosses, potentially with leaks, en route from one foreign country to another? Is that in our national interest?

by jhwygirl

Bringing it back. As always, consider this an open thread

If you watched only one The Daily Show this week, hopefully it was this one. He starts off with “Democracy” – brings in Saudia Arabia’s lack of it with regards, especially, to women. Slaps the U.S. for embracing Saudia Arabia and then whips it all together with #occupywallstreet and the NYPD attacks on peaceful protesters.

On that note, here’s The Nation’s FAQ on Occupy Wall Street. Just the basics, for those still wondering what it is.

For your visual pleasure and cultural and even perhaps political curiosity, some pics from an expat living in China, twitterer @lonniehodge – who’s also a TED speaker.

I was seriously asleep on this one – Supermontana reporter John S. Adams broke the story, then Don Pogreba took the Rep. Denny Rehberg Federal land-grab story and pulled it all together with a very thorough analysis.

More hypocrisy from Rehberg. Against National Monuments, but fine with handing over unilateral authority over Montana’s borders to the Department of Homeland Security. Kinda like a double-dip of hypocrisy there, isn’t it?

Speaking of hypocrites..the face of Montana’s reasonable conservatism Montanafesto absolutely rips on Reverend Harris Himes’ criminal activities in this post titled Hypocrite, Meet Karma – Another Righteous Right Winger Down.

Himes, if you haven’t heard, is Blaming the gays.

Jack over at The Western Word had a piece this week about a local drinking-and-driving tragedy there in Great Falls. He has written quite a bit on the topic of drinking and driving, and I had, in fact, had reason to come across this tough criticism on the legislature from this past session just today.

Are you reading James Conner? Because you need to be. James’ latest piece at the Flathead Memo is on the bullying incident at Glacier High School. The story is pretty sick, and I knew it was going to get ugly when the coach resigned as the story broke. For all that, read this earlier post from James, which really rings together the whole sordid thing, along with a local history of the issue, together.

Montana is one of only 5 states in the nation without anti-bullying laws. Congressional candidate and state senator Kim Gillan sponsored SB141 this past session in an effort to address bullying. While it passed the Senate, it was tabled in the House Education Committee. A blast attempt on the floor failed also, 63-34. That’s not a party-line vote, btw – looks like 2 Republicans might have voted with the Dems to try and get the thing a fair floor hearing.

Disgraceful.

2nd Grade Bike Rack got linked to in an Huffington Post piece on the Keystone XL pipeline this past week. Pretty sweet! Kudos to James for that. Wanna read it? Republicans Oppose Keystone XL Pipeline.

That’s all I got – what about you?

by jhwygirl

Koch Industries-funded Americans For Prosperity’s Running on Empty Tour is coming to town, and they’re clearly afraid of Missoula.

They’re so afraid of the liberals here in this little ol’ university town of Missoula Montana that they’ve removed Karl Tyler Chevrolet from its event’s calendar for the tour, replacing it with “TBD”.

Missoula is the only stop in Montana with a location yet to be determined.

The Running on Empty Tour stops here Friday at noon.

Supermontanareporter John S. Adams had a piece in Sunday’s Great Falls Tribune that provides some background on Americans For Prosperity and the main thrust of its Running on Empty Tour:

Kyla Wiens, an energy advocate for the Montana Environmental Information Center, said the driving force behind AFP is one of the nation’s wealthiest energy companies working to preserve its profits.

AFP was founded in 2004 by billionaire Charles Koch, of Koch Industries. Forbes magazine listed Koch Industries No. 2 on its list of America’s largest companies in 2009 with revenues toping $100 billion. The company made its fortune in diversified companies involved in oil refining, minerals, commodities trading, and others.

According to the New York Times, AFP’s budget surged from $7 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2010, an election year.

Wiens says AFP’s claim — that “illegal” offshore drilling moratoriums, the canceling of oil and gas leases on public lands and the Endangered Species Act are driving up gas prices — is false.

“They are just wrong and they are lying intentionally,” Wiens says. “This is just false rhetoric from the Koch brothers’ group that is funded by industry and is working to protect big oil’s profits.”

For the local connection, it’s good to find out that Scott Sales (a long-time favorite ’round these parts) is president of the Montana chapter of Americans For Prosperity Foundation. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise – Scott Sales has long been a corporate apologist who defended tax cheats while a state legislator.

What’s really surprising is that Scott Sales is apparently one of the last people on earth who will still champion the free market.

Yep – that’s right. Supermontanareporter John. S. Adams grabs a quote from Scott Sales championing the free market for the oil industry:

Sales says the free market, not government regulation, will bring energy prices down.

“That’s the beauty of the free market. If there’s a lot of something, it means you’re going to have fewer dollars chasing more product. Conversely, if you have supply restrictions, you have more dollars chasing fewer commodities,” Sales says.

Hilarious. Free market is impeded by regulation. Not subsidy.

Scott Sales, still the idiot we always knew he was.

~~~~~~~
I’m hearing rumours of a counter-protests for Koch & Co. when they hit Missoula.

I guess that’s if they hit Missoula, given that Americans For Prosperity and Scott Sales seem pretty scared to even let Missoula and Montana know where it is they’re going to be stopping.

And you know what, if I had to guess, maybe they’ll be stopping to refuel here at a Holiday Station. Why? Because Holiday Station gets its fuel from the Canadian Tar Sands, and it’s refined in Canada by Flint Hill Resources.

Who owns Flint Hill Resources?

Flint Hill Resources is wholly owned by Koch Industries.

When I get info on the Missoula welcoming party for Koch/Americans For Prosperity/Scott Sales Tour, I’ll let ya’all know.

(a hat tip to @KirsteninMT for the Holiday Station info – big THANKS to her for that!)

by jhwygirl

It isn’t like I didn’t know this was coming, but I was sickened by the front page headline on the Great Falls Tribune this morning:

33 landowners face condemnations

I won’t rehash the sordid mess, but I will say that with adequate media coverage of this matter, the effect it would have on the next legislature would be deafening. Guaranteed.

If it’s one thing that will wake up Montanans it’s when private property is condemned. Find out it is for a private company for private profit? That won’t be good either.

Find out it’s not even an American company? Probably even worse. Realize that the only people getting jobs are the attorneys and their paralegals?

Ummm. Yeah.

Tonbridge was granted direct eminent domain authority over private property here in Montana. The legislature got lazy and the Governor, quite frankly, demanded it. Now private citizens will have to hire lawyers and face down private companies with little protection, other than the judge, to ensure that personal and property rights that are guaranteed in our constitution are protected and equitably compensated when true public benefit can be demonstrated.

Given our history here in this state?

Most obscene is the fact that Tonbridge spent enough money in cigars and steaks and 75 year old scotch that they had a special clause inserted into the bill guaranteeing it would apply to them (other state law does not allow them to apply retroactively.)

Corporate porn.

by jhwygirl

Montana’s Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to keep hidden pricing information on two wind energy projects that Northwestern Energy (NWE) is considering to purchase.

The vote was a Republican/Democrat split with Bill Gallagher, Travis Kavulla and Northwestenergy tool Brad Molnar voting to keep the information from the public and Democratic commissioners Gail Gutsche of Missoula and John Vincent of Gallatin Gateway voting against the request.

NWE, located in South Dakota, is the largest utility provider in Montana. They’ve decided to buy a proposed 40-megawatt wind farm near Geyser that is being developed by Compass Wind of Denver. They had considered two other developer’s (Invenergy and Sagebrush Energy) projects.

So the PSC is going to review NWE’s purchase of Compass Wind’s project by comparing it to project information submitted by the losing developers on their losing projects? And it isn’t consumer’s right to know the costs of those projects that were in consideration.

That’s a big “Screw You” to Montanans from an agency who’s pure mission is to protect consumer interests when it comes to public utility services.

Gail Gutsche and John Vincent? Thanks.

I’ll remind everyone here that Gail Gutsche will be running for re-election in 2012 (I hope). Let’s keep her around, OK?

by jhwygir

For up-to-the-moment news from an affected landowner, please read Alexis Bonogofsky’s twitter timeline.

Of greatest interest today, she reports that Exxon did not send out their specialized crews today.

Nice, huh?

While MSNBC reports that Exxon officials are now saying the spill could extend beyond the 10 miles they’ve originally reported.

You don’t say? And I’m loving those qualifiers (could? Really? We’re in flood!)

Please take notice of the wildlife photos on that MSNBC story.

On that note, Ms. Bonogofsky, ranch owner of Blue Creek Farms has also reported on the immediate loss of wildlife from her Yellowstone River ranch.

I cry for her loss. It is heartbreaking to hear of this devastation. I wish there was something I could do.

Watch Mike Scott, who is co-owner with Alexis of Blue Creek farms, question Exxon in this KTVQ-NBC Billings report and video.

And again – on that note – ranch owners Alexis and Mike were kicked out of the press conference and public officials did nothing to stop this banishment.

The agriculture industry is being ruined down there along the Yellowstone and public officials are allowing Exxon to clean up their image by keeping affected landowners out of press conferences? Shame to any and all who escorted Alexis and Mike out of that press conference.

by jhwygirl

The story develops – this from the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

Pruessing (Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. president) also said that the 12-inch pipeline had been temporarily shut down in May because of concerns over the rising waters on the Yellowstone. He said the company decided to restart the line after examining its safety record and deciding the risk was low.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees pipelines, last year issued a warning letter to Exxon Mobil that cited seven safety violations along the ruptured Silvertip pipeline. Two of the warnings faulted the company for its emergency response and pipeline corrosion training.

And this…

The 20-year-old pipeline was last inspected in 2009 using a robotic device that travels through the line looking for corrosion, dents or other problems, Pruessing said. Tests to determine the pipeline’s depth were taken in December, and at the time, the line appeared to be 5 to 8 feet below the riverbed, he said.

So Exxon inspected the line and provided the report. These are guys with a history of safety violations – yes, here in Montana too.

Please notice the language “the line appeared to be 5 to 8 feet below the riverbed”. Did they inspect it or not? How could you be off by 5 to 8 feet? Or was that a guess?

Why the government hasn’t learned its lesson over self-regulation is beyond me. At minimum, the permitting process should included ongoing fees for inspections, and the government should be hiring 3rd party contractors to do these inspections.

by jhwygirl

A crime has occurred in our great state along the mighty Yellowstone River. There are private landowners affected by this spill – their property has been trashed, and to what degree of damage has yet to be known.

These landowners could use your assistance. Apparently, state officials are referring Montana citizens to Exxon’s help line.

It seems to me that the state would want to hear all they can about this violation on our major waterway? Isn’t there some sort of state investigation that is going to ensue?

Beyond that, you should be well aware of Exxon’s record of safety issues and their less-than-thorough clean-up efforts both in Valdez and the Gulf. The fishing industry of both of those disasters would undoubtedly send Montana a very strong warning about trusting Exxon to clean-up.

So please Mr. Attorney General – please make sure that landowners along the Yellowstone River and irrigation users that may be miles and miles away from their intakes on the Yellowstone have their concerns documented properly (so that Exxon doesn’t go screwing them like they did to the citizens of Alaska and the fishing industry of the Gulf). If the state’s response is that Exxon is heading up the clean-up of its own mess (both literally and legally), they’re sure going to go ahead and repeat the same thing they’ve done elsewhere.

This is an area where you have excelled Mr. Attorney General – holding corporate America responsible.

History does have a purpose. It’s a good harbinger of what happens if we do the same thing as before. Let’s hope Montana doesn’t have to suffer the same ‘clean-up’ results of Alaska and the Gulf. Exxon needs oversight, not just emergency efforts (though that is certainly priority at this time) – Exxon needs oversight to keep them from covering up any damages that busy evacuated landowners might not have time to document.

In closing, please hear the words of Alexis Bonogofsky describing the devastation on her ranch adjacent to the Yellowstone River to the Billings Gazette. If this doesn’t break a Montanan’s heart, I don’t know what would:

by jhwygirl

All of that being reported in the local press. Property owner adjacent to the river have been evacuated….and ditch owners all along the Yellowstone are doing what they can to keep the toxic mess out of their systems.

The NYTimes just got the story up in the last two hoursdo make sure to hit that link and see the devastation.

Exxon? YOU SUCK.

Below are some pictures from the owner of the Blue Creek Farms ranch who is now faced with dealing with this absolutely devastating spill of crude. I hope to be able to speak with him tomorrow.

Montana Department of Environmental Equality has a 24 hour hotline where spills are to be reported. I hope some industrious reporters are out there finding out what role the state and the feds are taking in dealing with this. Let’s hope Exxon isn’t out there on their own on this holiday weekend.

Good Goddess.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal is reporting the early estimate is that 1000 barrels have spilled into the Yellowstone River.

Tim Thennis, a spokesman for the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services division, provided that initial estimate. He added that although no cause of the spill has been determined, it’s possible that heavy flooding affecting that part of the U.S. could have played a part. Thennis said that flooding is also interfering with the clean-up effort, meaning the oil could reach the Missouri River, of which the Yellowstone is a tributary, making the task even more difficult for emergency responders. Montana emergency officials have notified officials in North Dakota that the oil could be heading their way, Tennis said.

“There’s no way to capture [the oil] right now,” Thennis told Dow Jones Newswires. “The further it spreads the more difficult it becomes.”

Pictures in the Billings Gazette turn my stomach. Wildlife, farm fields – all coated in oil. 150 miles of river and counting. North Dakota has been warned.

By CFS

We all know that corn ethanol takes away resources from growing food, but by how much might astonish you.  According to author Alexis Madrigal in his book Powering the Dream, USDA statistics from 2010 show that fully 1/3 of the United States corn harvest went into our collective gas tanks.

That 1/3 of US corn production is akin to a subsidy for the wealthy.  You see, the more wealth and income a person has the more cars a person owns and consequently the more miles a person tends to drive (who wants to be on a bus with a bunch of stinky people), consuming proportionally more gas.  Conversely, the higher up the income scale one climbs the less a person spends on food as a proportion of their income.  The exact opposite is true of the lower-income scales, whome spend a much larger proportion of income simply feeding themselves and their families while spending less on transportation.  So, corn ethanol subsidies are essentially robbing from the poor and giving to the rich, a kind of reverse Robin Hood.

Bringing it down to the scale of Missoula, would you rather help out the people that live on the South Hills in Mansion Heights, or the people that live in doublewides in East Missoula?

Just how much is 1/3?  The US corn harvest in 2010 was 13.1 billion bushels.  Yes that is 13.1 with a B! A record-setting year in terms of acreage under production and yield even in the face of record grain prices.

So, fully 4.3 billion bushels of corn was converted into ethanol.  Those 4.3 billion bushels yielded 12.1 billion gallons of ethanol (based on my calculations from the ratio I derived thanks to this link) out of a total US supply of 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol which gives us 10% of the total gasoline supply.

That’s a lot of numbers… but bear with me.

So, to fill just 10% of our voracious appetite for fuel (18 million barrels of oil/day) uses roughly 26.4 million acres of American (Fuck Yeah!) farmland.  So while the addition of corn ethanol to our fuel supply hasn’t put much of a dent into American gas prices or our consumption of foreign oil, you can see in the chart below just how much biofuels have effected the price of corn.  The steep increase in price coincides nicely with the increase in total corn used for ethanol seen in the chart here (scroll down toward the bottom).

And also coincides nicely with the increase in the commodity price of beef.  Beef, it’s where most of the corn goes.

Obviously, the increase in price isn’t all due to increases in the amount of corn ethanol produced, but the pattern fits nicely together.  The real point of all these numbers I’ve thrown in front of you is to show the sheer scale of the impact that ethanol has on the food market (quite a lot) and the extent of the impact on the fuels market (almost non-existent).

In the end ethanol subsidies are part of the larger package of policies in this country that give breaks to those with an excessively disproportionate share of this country’s wealth.  These subsidies might not be that large in the scheme of things relating to our total budget deficit, but they are symptomatic of our larger cultural tendency to reward the rich and punish the poor.

Guest post by Matthew Koehler, Ian Lange and John Snively (promoted by JC)

Last fall news broke that the University of Montana was planning to construct a $16 million wood-burning biomass plant on campus next to the Aber Hall dormitory. UM officials claimed the biomass plant would save UM $1 million annually and protect Missoula’s air quality by reducing emissions over the existing natural gas heating system.

As interested citizens, we attended the university’s biomass “poster presentation” last December, which, unfortunately, raised more serious questions than it answered. So we continued to ask questions and research the proposal. In March, we even conducted an “open records” search of UM’s biomass project file, pouring over hundreds of documents and emails between UM officials and representatives of Nexterra, a Canadian biomass boiler manufacturer, and McKinstry, a Seattle energy services company. Suffice to say, our records search turned up even more troubling questions, especially related to costs, maintenance and emissions.
Continue Reading »

By CFS

Really the only thing that gets people excited about high oil prices is the prospect that suddenly American manufacturing might once again become competitive.

The reason this is wrong is the expansion of the Panama Canal. A great deal of our trade in America comes from Asia which means great big ships with a hell of a lot of shipping containers. Before the expansion much of this shipping container traffic was dropped off on the west coast, transferred to an awful lot of 18 wheelers or trains and shipped east. But now, According to the latest edition of the Planning Magazine with the “new and improved” Panama Canal the size of ships that can be accommodated just tripled and conversely lowered the cost of shipping a single container to the Midwest and East Coast where most of the cheap shit from China ends up.

A journey from Hong Kong through the port of LA and on to the East Coast costs $3,500/container. With the new ships the Panama Canal will now allow up to $1,000/container to be knocked off the cost of shipping.

I’m sure the shareholders of Walmart are very happy about this news, after all, none of us have enough plastic crap in our lives.

BCFS

Just ignore anything thing that comes out of a politician’s mouth when discussing oil prices, whether that politician may be President Obama or Denny “I do believe I fell off my horse” Rehberg.  For that matter you can also ignore Faux News’ claim that financial speculation is the key culprit of high oil prices because the reality is that the main driver behind oil prices is a lack of sufficient supply.

The Oil Drum has a great analysis (which continues in the comments) up at their site that comes to this very conclusion.  It’s a long, and a very technical post, but well worth the read.

The basic problem the world is facing in the short-term is that the great oil exporters aren’t so great anymore.  You see, the major exporters have been massively developing their countries over the last 20 years trying to diversify their economies away from a dependence on oil exports.  This has strangely had the reverse effect of making their economies more reliant on oil.

In 2005 total world exports were 40.8 million barrels per day (mbpd) as compared with 35.7 mbpd in 2009, a  12.5% decline in only a matter of 4 years.  While data might not be available for 2010, the news only gets worse.  Both Russia and China have instituted export restrictions so as to support their domestic economies.  This will lead to a further reduction in total oil exports.  The news out of Russia, being the world’s second largest oil producer, does not bode well for the oil importing countries of the world.  Add in the fact that Saudi Arabian oil production peaked in 2005 and Russia peaked in 2007.  No country can replace these two producers and so the decline in world exports will continue and with it prices at the gas station here in America will continue to rise.

Two additional variables complicate the situation.  The first is political.  Already the Arab Spring is effecting oil exports coming out of the Middle East.  But on-top of the unrest directly leading to reductions in oil production regimes that are desperate to hold on to their power are already starting to spend oil revenue on social programs with the aim to buy the silence of their populace.  That leaves less money to invest in future oil production and will lead to an otherwise faster decline in production.

The second, is the economic principle of diminishing returns on investment.  This is an economic fact that was drilled into my head in economics class.  Usually, this principle is couched in the terms of labor vs. capital.  Each additional laborer produces a certain amount of profit, add too many workers and that rate of return decrease and will eventually go negative.  Same with capital.

Energy markets are subject to the same principle but in a slightly different manner.  The principle here is “energy returned on energy invested” (EROEI).  Back in the day when oil was first discovered, the EROEI was in the range of 30-50, meaning for every unit of energy expended in production, 30-50 units of energy were actually produced.  Now however, we are down to the point of extracting oil at an EROEI under 10, with tar sands right about 5.  So we are reaching the point of having to expend a lot more energy and money to get just a little bit of energy in return.

Now, You can take this principle and expand it a bit further.  Lets take for example infrastructure investment, in this case our national highway network.  Because this type of investment is public, the return on investment would be the total economic activity spurred by said investment, ranging from the construction jobs created directly from the investment to the development of real estate on former farmland and the sale of cars that fill up said highways.

Between 2004 and 2008 23,300 miles of additional roadway were built in America.  Now the first 23,300 miles that were built in the system way back under Truman contributed much more to the economic prosperity of our country than the last 23,300 miles.  Why is that?  It’s because of all that previous investment.  Not only is that last 23,300 miles a marginal amount at this point compared with all that previous investment,  but all those thousands of miles already built require a lot of investment each and every year just to maintain.  All the maintenance required to keep up that old investment takes away from the ability of a nation to invest in new infrastructure.

This same phenomenon is occurring in places like Saudi Arabia.  Once you’ve gotten to all the easy oil, you have to spend an increasing amount of money just to tread water.  From The Oil Drum:  Saudi Arabian oil officials met with Halliburton to discuss plans to boost their oil-directed rig count by roughly 30%.

According to a Saudi oil official interviewed by Reuters, the investment in new drilling rigs “is not to expand capacity. It’s to sustain current capacity on new fields and old fields that have been bottled up.” (1) This news on its own should be troubling as it infers that the Kingdom is facing significant declines on currently producing fields. Even more troubling is the recent statement by another senior Saudi oil official that the Kingdom “expects oil production to hold steady at an average of 8.7 million barrels per day to 2015.”

Increasing investment by 30% just to stay barely above water.

Drill-Baby-Drill!

BCFS

So… My better half is contemplating purchasing a new vehicle, which means that I get to have some fun doing internet research and reading car magazines on possible options.  She decided that she wanted better gas mileage than her current Subaru provides (28 mpg), and I convinced her that she if she wanted a significant improvement that she should go with a diesel, specifically a Jetta TDI (used or new).  The only problem it seems is that you can’t find a diesel car within 500 miles of Missoula: of course you can find hundreds of diesel Chevy Silverado 3500s.  The dealers seem to think that they wouldn’t sell which means that the closest diesel cars are embargoed in Seattle, Denver, or Salt Lake City.

This isn’t the only barrier that crops up when you want to get your right foot on the gas pedal of a diesel.  Prices of diesels in the used car market have significantly risen in the last half decade as fuel economy suddenly became important to people.  Used Jetta TDIs routinely go for several thousand dollars above their suggested blue book value making a slightly used TDI almost as expensive as a brand new one.  A diesel Jetta is the “cheap” option as many of the other diesels available in America are European luxury models.

And that gets me to my question of the day… Where the fuck are the American diesels?  Half of all cars sold in Europe are diesel.  If you want to buy an American made diesel vehicle in this country you have a lot of option that look like this:

Other than that you have to go with a European manufacturer if you want a car and not a truck.  Audi has 4 diesel models available in the US; BMW 3; Mercedes 7; Volkswagen 7; GM 0, Ford 0; Chrysler 0.  And Audi, BMW, and Mercedes cars aren’t exactly cheap and so aren’t feasible for most Americans to purchase.

Petrol prices are once again averaging $4/gallon and are nearing the record high reached in 2008 and yet the mix of cars available in America has changed very little even in the face of rising prices spanning the last decade.  As of 2008, the average passenger vehicle in America got 25.6 mpg compared to 25.1 mpg in 2001.  That’s American innovation for you.

But this being America, we like big sweeping plans to solve issues, the simple solutions are just plain boring.  T. Boon Pickens has his idea for converting the American passenger vehicle fleet to natural gas and Obama wants us to believe that plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs) are the technological answers to our commuting nightmares.  Both of those options might be viable long-term solutions to our dependence on oil to drive our economy, but in the short-term neither really makes all that much sense.

The problem with both EVs and NGVs is that they both require whole new systems of distribution and manufacture to develop.  We are talking about investments in the trillions of dollars here to undertake the necessary research, develop new, scalable manufacturing techniques, convert factories, and build the distribution system that will allow Americans to plug-in or fill up their car with natural gas.

Diesel doesn’t require any of that.  The distribution system is already in place.  American car makers might have to spend $50,000 grand buying an advanced diesel car from Europe and reverse-engineering the engine but that’s about all the research they would have to undertake to catchup with European manufacturers.  And diesel cars could show an immediate impact on fuel efficiency, often providing two or three times the fuel efficiency than gas engines currently in use in America.

In the end, diesel isn’t the answer to our oil-dependence (and talk of our energy addiction would make this post too long) as we are going to run out of crude anyway.  What diesel can provide is a bridge between today and whatever system comes along in the future… whether that may be flying cars or living in termite mounds.

by Pete Talbot

You get who you vote for

Montana’s PSC is one of the most important government bodies we have in this state. As the banner at its website reveals: energy, telecommunications, water/sewer, transportation and pipeline safety are all under its purview. Since last November’s elections and the new 3-2 Republican majority, the commission has been in turmoil. The latest dust up is being well chronicled by Pogie at Intelligent Discontent, and by the Great Falls Tribune, Lee Newspapers and the Associated Press.

But since the voters decided to return the incendiary “rogue commissioner”* Brad Molner to the commission, and replace utility expert and consumer advocate Ken Toole with utility owner Bill Gallagher, well, what do you expect?

The jury is still out on Travis Kavulla.

* Attributed to PSC Commissioner Gail Gutsche.

Denny’s going down

Rep. Denny Rehberg toed the Tea Party line when he voted against House Resolution 1473, the congressional compromise that cut $38 billion but kept the government up and running.

From the L.A. Tribune’s Washington Bureau:

The bill approved by the House and Senate Thursday will fund the government through the end of the 2011 fiscal year on Sept. 30, cutting $38 billion from environmental, health, education, job-training and other domestic programs. Despite the steep reductions, the measure didn’t go far enough for the House’s most conservative members, exposing divisions among Republicans. (Emphasis mine.)

It’s still early and anything could happen but if the Senate race isn’t already trending to Sen. Tester, I’d be surprised. Tester has been in the news a lot, lately: his wolf-delisting rider, veteran’s issues, and a wilderness bill (there are folks on both sides of the aisle upset with his wolf and wilderness stances, which indicate that they’re moderate positions). And Montanans, for the most part, are a moderate lot, which bodes well for Tester.

Rehberg has done nothing of note (besides casting Tea Party votes) and therefore hasn’t been getting much press, either good or bad, which goes to the old political axiom: I don’t care what you write about me, just spell my name right.

And I was so worried that Gadhafi would appear on the ballot

Some Montana legislators have offered up crazy stuff this session but most of the bills have died in committee, on the floor or have been vetoed by the governor. Not so in Arizona, where a bill promoted by the “birthers” is on the Arizona Governor’s desk awaiting her signature — and it’s possible the socially-conservative Republican governor will sign it. The bill demands proof of U.S citizenship before allowing presidential candidates on the ballot, and Arizona wants to see hospital records, baptismal certificates or circumcision records, along with other affidavits.

Always good to see that Montana’s legislature hasn’t cornered the market on wacky.

by jhwygirl

25 American mayors around the U.S. signed a letter off to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlining their concerns over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian Tar Sands oil.

I’m pretty sure our council has a resolution out regarding the transport of the big rigs for the nasty dirty Tar Sands…and I’m pretty sure it does, in part, refer to the overall impacts of the extraction. Seems Missoula should be continuing to represent its opinion in these matters.

In other news, the state department recently announced that it would be doing a supplemental EIS on the pipeline.

Let’s hope Missoula provides official public input.

One fact they’ll have to look at?

The firms involved have asked the U.S. State Department to approve this project, even as they’ve told Canadian government officials how the pipeline can be used to add at least $4 billion to the U.S. fuel bill.

U.S. farmers, who spent $12.4 billion on fuel in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, could see expenses rise to $15 billion or higher in 2012 or 2013 if the pipeline goes through.

At least $500 million of the added expense would come from the Canadian market manipulation.”>

Let’s hope our Senator Jon Tester is looking out for Montana’s agricultural community on this one – and saying “NO” to this pipeline.

by jhwygirl

Otter Creek is never going to get mined. All Arch Coal wants is to be able to run a railroad through it, to get it to the port it owns a third of. to export the stuff to China.

That is, please note, the second port agreement for Arch is less than a month.

If that isn’t colonialism, I don’t know what is.

We’re waving traffic flags for $10/hour for Korean-built drilling equipment for China….and we’re condemning state federal and private property for a railroad to get it there.

Nice.

State Attorney General Steve Bullock talked about the economics of the bonus payment in relation to the amount of money that Arch will save immediately by shipping its coal across Montana with the railroad it’d be building (via eminent domain) in the Tongue River Basin. His staff researched that information pretty thoroughly.

How is that for an example of fine government coal subsidy on the backs of the taxpayers of Montana?

And keep in mind that Montana’s coal isn’t the quality of stuff that Wyoming has. That’s fact.

That $80 million so-called “bonus bid”? Nothing more than shush money to members of both parties for paving the way to a situation that has brought about ridiculous destructive environmental legislation in the name of “jobs”.

What’s even more hilarious is that the feds are complicit in this – the federal Surface Transportation Board has already approved the route and has told Montana (translate, so no one misses it: State’s Rights) Fish Wildlife & Parks to figure things out over the route that crosses a federally-funded sturgeon fishery.

Someone’s getting rich. It won’t be Montanan’s, you can bet on it.

Follow the money.

by jhwygirl

Hydraulic fracturing gas extraction?

While I’ve written a little (and what the hell do I know other than what I read) about it – but one excellent Montana blog research is The Editor at to get some background on why you should be concerned about fracking here in Montana (and beyond, actually).

Because the what is Montana without its water?

Two Montana grassroots environmental groups watching over the debate in Helena over energy development’s continual encroachment on environmental rules designed to protect our land and water are the Northern Plains Resource Council and the Montana Environmental Information Center. Both of those links will take you directly to their information papers on fracking.

AND – to provide industry-sourced information on fracking (and even a little bit of background noise on the GOP’s cry about how there’s no drilling in this state), check out a major Montana oil & gas lessee holder in the Bakken Reserve: Northern Oil & Gas, Inc. This is their great video explaining the process.

And after watching that, I didn’t feel that it was any safer.

Northern Oil & Gas holds a pretty large number of leases in the Bakken – both here and North Dakota. Why would a company hold a whole bunch of leases and not drill them? Because there’s only so many drills to go around and only so many skilled laborers to go around. Not only that – but housing too. It’s a well-known fact that they can’t even hire people because there is no where for them to live. Companies hold leases because the price of oil is controlled on a larger scale and profit is always important so putting more oil out on the market only hurts profits. Because they have to work out agreements and permits with all sorts of governmental and private entities

So the rumbling that there isn’t any drilling going on in Montana and somehow it’s the fault of the Montana Enviromental Policy Act is a bunch of malarky from corporate welfare lapdogs and the companies that donate to them.

I see I’ve digressed. Blame it on the flu.

~~~~~~~
Inform yourself on fracking – check out “Gasland” which will be shown in Bozeman Tuesday, January 25th at the Emerson Theater at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $5, and it is sponsored by Northern Plains Resource Council.

by jhwygirl

Travis over at Electric City Weblog wrote up a nice piece on the recent court case surrounding the MATL transmission line, the law, and his musings on the issue. Recommended.

by jhwygirl

Relatively speaking and not so relatively speaking.

Renewable Energy World released its state rankings of grades given by the solar energy. Where does Montana fall? 39th (or 40th if you count D.C.).

That’s a 2010 ranking by the industry. In calculating that ranking, 50% of Montana’s score (our score being a pithy 17 out of 100) depends upon “incentives”. Our grade in “incentives”? F.

Before ya’all go saying that solar doesn’t work here in Montana, check the maps out here, provided by National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Compare that to the states that top us in rank? Factor in size, too? So Illinois, ranking 8, blows us away. Pennsylvania, ranking 5th? Again – blowing us away.

Here is a burgeoning industry and we’re in a state with enormous solar potential and we have zilcho, comparatively speaking, to virtually all the other states in the union.

Stimson mill sits empty with railroad tracks running through it..they’re recycling silicon in Butte (a major component of photovoltaic cells), and Montana isn’t doing diddly squat to bring those kind of elements together to produce jobs.

But how about those flag-waving jobs to move Korean-built tar sands equipment? Jobs, jobs, jobs!

Moving on to wind…..

Here’s a 2009 ranking for wind energy production, state by state. Montana’s ranking? We do a bit better here (and should) – 18th.

But should we do better? Check the maps. Washington, California, Oregon? Top us on the list, yet our potential outshines them – by far. Colorado, New York, New Mexico….Indiana? Same there.

The Montana legislature squabble over the minutia of this stuff, often blaming it on MEPA and over-regulation. Anyone want to believe that looking at how places like California and New York out-rank us? Because, you know, California and New York are so regulation-free. Others put out there that the lack of powerlines to transmit the stuff doesn’t exist, which really isn’t true. It’s the lack of incentives to bring solar and wind energy here – and remember, that’s the industry talking.

Blaming MEPA is a bunch of crap. Any major transmission line has to go through NEPA, mainly because anything moving across Montana is going to be hitting federal lands…and NEPA is far more onerous.

~~~~~
This is where tax incentives should come in. I’m tired of hearing the GOP leaders talk about and advocate for blanket cuts in business taxes. We have business here. They pay taxes. They employ people. Do you honestly think the mere act of cutting their taxes is going to create jobs? The reality is that we’ve cut all sorts of business taxes and we’ve not seen any appreciable growth in the number of people employed by these businesses. We’ve seen new businesses..but not growth in existing business (which is the state purpose of the tax cuts, right?) If you are going to propose blanket business tax breaks, provide Montanans with some data showing how many jobs will be created by these existing businesses for whom you are cutting taxes.

That way we can confirm that you are wrong. Or correct.

Do you dare?

Every blanket break in taxes for existing businesses falls to someone else to pay – meaning….private property owners.

I’m not alone in thinking that…we just need good people to speak up. Everyone knows – thoughtful conservatives and liberals alike – that blanket tax breaks for existing businesses aren’t going to create enough new jobs (if any) to make up for the loss in tax revenue. Calling for tax cuts might get you elected..but if you defunct the government in doing so, you aren’t doing your job.

Montana needs targeted tax breaks for high paying industries that guarantee jobs and investment here in Montana. Guarantee jobs? Guaranteed tax incentives. Invest in Montana – help them with some incentives to get here. Tier these incentives based on the number of jobs and the taxable payroll. This isn’t rocket science – an increase in taxable payroll means more people paying taxes and supporting more businesses here in Montana.

We’re hounding down 2010..and the 2011 legislative season looms. There’s 28 days until election. Let’s hear some real tax policy talk from candidates on both sides of the aisle. Let’s talk substance, not talking points.

Specifics.

I don’t want to hear “cut taxes” and “cut business taxes” from GOP talking heads like Mat Stevenson and Champ Edmunds like I did the other night at the Target Range Homeowners Association meeting. Frankly, I ended up feeling kind of sorry for the poor fellas, and there’s really no other way to say it. While I sat and listened to the candidates from several legislative seats speak, both of these guys had it pretty tough from the crowd of mostly seniors in the audience when they started with their GOP talking points call to “cut taxes” and railing against “big government.”

So much so that when asked to be specific about what they would cut..they couldn’t answer. When begged to suggest anything that they would cut…they said they couldn’t answer until they “looked at what was proposed.”

When even that tactic of avoidance didn’t work as it was pointed out to them that they seemed ill-informed to be running for an office when they hadn’t even looked at the current year’s budget, Stevenson insisted that we (as in Republicans) would “find stuff to cut.” This angered an older fellow in the crowd who quickly took to giving him the hook (yep – it was as painful as it sounds), saying “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Here’s an idea: Targeted tax cuts tied to job creation. Tax cuts that don’t shoulder more upon property owners. Tax cuts that create new high paying jobs that increase tax overall tax revenue.

As Martha would say: That’s a good thing.

by jhwygirl

The latest meme from our bloviating Governor Brian Schweitzer is that the Canadian tar sands – slated for expansion – are (get this) “conflict free”:

“I would say this is conflict-free oil and I don’t want to send one more son or daughter from Montana to defend an oil supply from one of these dictators and become dependent on that energy supply,” he said in an interview with the Canadian Press from his office in Helena.

Really?

There are Canadiansordinary citizens, doctors and Fort Chipewyan tribal members – that would disagree with you.

Does the fact that they don’t have bombs and guns make it conflict free? Because I don’t agree with that. I know I’m not the only one.

Hypocrisy and ignorance barely begins to describe the irony behind Schweitzer’s comments to the Canadian press this past week. Governor Schweitzer is a guy who doesn’t want to see the Flathead mined, yet approved a coal mine next to a Class 1 air shed (tromping on Crow tribal rights) and an alluvial floodplain right in Montana’s Tongue River valley.

Governor Schweitzer is a guy – born in Montana – who doesn’t seem to know his history, or even the higher cancer rates we saw right here in the upper Clark Fork basin because of the rape and pillage by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company (think Atlas Shrugs by Ayn Rand) that polluted everything near it from Butte to Missoula and beyond.

Schweitzer’s comments were made all the more pornographic given they occurred 30 years from when corporate irresponsibility suffocated Anaconda Montana.

Maybe The Brian should read Anaconda native Patrick Duganz’s words?

If they aren’t enough to expose him to the conflict of corporate irresponsibility, perhaps he should try and learn the lessons so many others haven’t forgotten of the dirty filth that mining has layed upon our lands.

Schweitzer sure is oblivious to this stuff isn’t he – and consider he’s got 130 million or so dollars of Natural Resource Damage Protection Program funds to spend to try and buy back lands to mitigate that environmental disaster thrust upon our state 100 years ago.

Maybe he forgot where that money came from?

Schweitzer is spouting off his newest talking point of “conflict free” as pressure mounts, nationwide, to stop the transport of the Korean-built Kearl modules up and over the Montana-Idaho border, adjacent to the Clearwater and Lochsa River, adjacent to Lolo Creek…through Missoula and next to the Blackfoot A-River-Runs-Through-It River, then up and over another mountain pass and on to the tar sands in Alberta.

Movie director and producer James Cameron? This Montanan thanks you.

Our Governor feigns to respect tribal peoples – yet the Nez Pierce, over who’s native lands these modules will travel – have objected to the modules.

Scientific journals are confirming high levels of carcinogens, mutagens, and teratogens such as mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium being thrust upon the native peoples of Canada. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America has published a paper explaining the pornography of the situation.

Discover Magazine has a pedestrian-friendly article on the issue.

Governor Schweitzer? You call yourself a scientist, don’t you? If cancer was reigning down in your watershed, would you call that “conflict free”?

Did Montana call that conflict free when it happened here?

by Pete Talbot

“We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal,” reads a plank in the state’s GOP platform.

So, most Montanans think that two consenting adults of the same gender should go to jail if they want to have sex. Interesting.

“I think your average Montanan would say the environmentalists have gone too far in stopping growth and stifling the economy,” says Bill Gallagher, Republican PSC candidate in District 5.

It’s environmentalists, not Wall Street and the resulting financial meltdown, that have stopped growth and crippled the economy — at least according to your “average Montanan.” Again, interesting.

This begs the question, what is an average Montanan? The Montana Republican Party, with some exceptions, thinks we’re homophobic anti-environmentalists.

It’s not easy or wise to pigeonhole people, especially Montanans. Examples I know of: a gay football coach, a Prius-driving logger, a lesbian wrangler. The Montanans I’ve met, for the most part, are a tolerant lot. They also have great respect for the outdoors. And this isn’t just in leftyville Missoula. With in-laws in Babb and Billings, and gigs in towns from Eureka to Broadus, Wolf Point to Sula, I’m constantly surprised by the depth and understanding of your “average Montanan.”

Sure, one will run into the occasional Neanderthal, but Montana doesn’t have a corner on that market.

(A quick aside. I wish I could vote in this PSC race but the Bill Gallagher/Ken Toole contest isn’t in my district. Ken Toole is a consumer advocate and industry watchdog. Gallagher is a shill for the utilities. And if Toole loses and the Republican wins in Montana’s northern District 1 [Don Ryan-D and Travis Kavulla-R] then Brad Molner would become chairman of Montana’s PSC. Scary stuff.)

I obviously disagree with the Montana Republican Party that Montanans are an intolerant lot and are opposed to environmental safeguards. Au contraire.

Some folks get stirred up by the far-right rhetoric — much of it coming from out of state: images of drag queens marching arm-in-arm up to the altar of the local Pentecostal Church, or claims of an end to all logging, mining, grazing, hunting and fishing if an environmentalist is elected. This ain’t going to happen.

And I have faith that “average Montanans” will look beyond the fear-based messages put out by the likes of Gallagher and the state Republican Party.




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