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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


The thirst for oil continues...

Posted 3/08/16 (Tue)

There’s a German news program on Prairie Public Television called Deutsch Welle that is produced in English from Berlin.

There was a very disturbing segment on there several days ago about how the Russian economy is in dire straits because of slumping oil prices and is on the verge of collapse.

Every day I hear reports on Canadian radio about its federal government’s deficit that continues to grow while the Canadian dollar continues to shrink, primarily because of low oil prices.

Here in the United States, oil is now being stored sidetracked in rail cars because there is no place else to put it.

It’s become common knowledge that oil is here, in North Dakota, but it’s now too expensive to extract and oil companies are leaving.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, an “ally” of the United States, has pushed its oil production to new levels to keep world prices low.

The Saudi oil minister has already told the Al Jazeera TV network that the plan is to destroy the U.S. shale industry.

Enter Iran. Now that sanctions have been lifted, Iran, which has always produced oil, is now allowed to sell it internationally, further adding to this sudden glut.

If that’s not enough, the United States recently lifted a 40-year international trade ban on the sale of oil. So now the United States is selling oil on the world market, adding still more to the supply.

There was a recent CBS TV report that suggested that the oil supply in Cushing, Okla., a major storage facility, is at it’s highest level in more than 80 years.

Consumers are loving this because we can actually afford gas now and you may not believe this, but regular gas in Tucson, Ariz., has dropped to $1.12 per gallon.

But the bigger issue is the international tension this is all creating. It’s going to continue because so many nations in the world are so dependent on oil and its revenue.

Thus, I have to ask the question, Didn’t any of these nations think about a plan B should something like this occur?

Up until a year ago, people were as crazy about oil as they were gold in the Klondike in the 1890s.

There have actually been plans B, C and D, but it seems nobody, at least in this country, wants to promote the alternatives.

Hybrid cars, electric cars, vehicles that run on alcohol and farm equipment that operates on sunflower oil have all been attempted, but for whatever reason, they either fade away or become too expensive to mass produce.

Sometime in the 1920s, Henry Ford built a car that ran on alcohol. Ford thought it was the future of internal combustion power, but then gas in the 1920s was cheap.

Today, alcohol has become a popular alternative in a lot of states except North Dakota. There are more than 300 alcohol refueling stations in Minnesota, and outside the 15 in Fargo, you’d be hard pressed to find that many in the rest of North Dakota.

There are places across the south with electric recharging stations. Florida for instance, has become a state with thousands of totally electric cars.

That would be tough in North Dakota because of our vast geographical size, but hybrids easily fit that bill, yet they’ve never become popular.

Why not?

There are just too many people who are too dependent on oil and at some point in time, this is either going to collapse, or there will be military conflict because of it.

In hindsight, the United States should have really begun looking at alternatives after World War II.

Blowing up oil refineries was the only way to stop Hitler’s war machine while at the same time, gas was being rationed here in the United States.

Nearly one-third of Europe was destroyed in that war. You’d think we would have learned some lessons from that and started on some alternative plan like Henry Ford’s idea 20 years prior of fueling cars with alcohol or something else.

I’ve heard former Sen. Kent Conrad say a hundred times that North Dakota is the Saudia Arabia of wind. If that’s the case, why aren’t wind farms creating a greater percentage of electricity for North Dakota and beyond?

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., while pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline, said the pipeline would help the United States become energy independent.

OK, so when gas was selling for $4.10 a gallon, United States consumers were held hostage and now, the United States is held hostage by the Saudis because of their liberal production of oil.

How is that energy independent?