Heartland Consumer Power District proudly announces that its pro-oil and pro-coal general manager Mike McDowell and paid lobbyist/state senator Russell Olson will participate in the Plain Green Conference in Sioux Falls on Friday. McDowell and Olson will contribute to a panel discussion of renewable energy.

If that doesn't fill your recommended daily allowance of irony, consider this: keynoting the Plain Green Conference is James Howard Kunstler, who, if given the opportunity, will blast McDowell and Olson's fossil-fuel flackery to bits. Here are a few gems on energy from Kunstler:

The two major parties both proclaim that the USA is verging on "energy independence." Both parties are lying. Reality knows that the shale oil "game changer" is a mirage. By 2014, the "sweet spots" of the Bakken will deplete faster than new wells can be drilled, and the impairments of banking will constrict the supply of capital investment for that hypothetical future drilling. All the deregulation in the world will not alter the fact that future oil is expensive, exists in places where it is hard to work, and entails unappetizing geopolitical contingencies. Reality favors letting go of automobile-based living and the adoption of walkable communities connected by inland waterways and railroads [James Howard Kunstler, "Join Up," Clusterf*** Nation, September 6, 2012].

On the signs that we are entering the "long emergency" of ever more expensive oil:

We're already seeing them. The two clearest signs are serious geopolitical friction and the volatility in the oil markets. A third one, which hasn't quite gotten traction, will be disruptions in the financial markets. But that could happen at any moment [Kunstler, interview with Katharine Mieszkowski, "After the Oil Is Gone," Salon, May 14, 2005].

On the false promises offered by industry boosters like McDowell and Olson:

There is a stupendous volume of propaganda, and wishful thinking, that we can replace cheap oil from the Middle East with unconventional oil and unconventional gas &ndash namely shale gas and shale oil. I think the whole game really founders on money issues and capital issues, and this is very poorly understood by the public &ndash including by people who ought to know better, like the mainstream media. We've been seeing headlines lately suggesting that America will soon be energy independent. Or that somehow America has magically become a net oil exporter. This is nonsense. The bottom line is, once you are trying to replace a shortage of easy-to-get conventional oil with unconventional, expensive oil, you're stuck in a trap. There is a paradox there: you really need a cheap oil economy to support an expensive oil economy. Without that underlying cheap oil economy, we're probably not going to get much of that expensive oil that's in difficult to get places, or that requires some extreme and complex production method for getting it out of the ground [Kunstler, interview with Jeff Goodell, "James Howard Kunstler on Why Technology Won't Save Us," Rolling Stone, July 12, 2012].

I hope Plain Green can record and post Kunstler's keynote address on Friday. And I dearly hope that video will include audience shots showing McDowell and Olson alternatively squirming and poo-pooing.


Big Oil lapdog Mike McDowell says that, in my opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, I'm in league with sheiks and dictators. He throws around his same stale wishful thinking that increased oil prices from Keystone XL are "not a certainty." He even celebrates (in a Daniel Yergin commentary completely cut and pasted into McDowell's blog post) all the extra fossil fuels we can blast surfaceward by fracking.

My breakfast responses:

  1. Sheiks hate me. I advocate getting us off our oil addiction completely by focusing on alternative energy and conservation. You've heard of those things, haven't you, Mike? Those are the ways the Rural Learning Center cut energy bills for its new Maroney Center in half. Such savings reduce consumption, lower energy prices, and extend our domestic supplies. Sheiks hate all that. (They also hate infidels like me.)
  2. Additionally, Mike and I have already discussed this: not one drop of Keystone XL is going to be used in America. TransCanada's honchos refuse to guarantee that it will.
  3. Keystone XL will raise oil prices. TransCanada and everyone in the market is counting on that.
  4. Fracking: oh, yeah, that thing that the EPA just announced may pollute groundwater. You bet, Mike. Crank open that spigot. Destroying our water supply is so much more intelligent than using less energy.

My Madison neighbor Jerry Heckenliable will love this one. You know all those high electric rates the City of Madison charges? Some of that money is going to promote the proposed Sioux Falls events center. Yes, Sioux Falls.

The finance report for the "Build It Now" committee supporting Mayor Huether's $115-million events center shows a $2500 contribution from Heartland Consumer Power District, which sells electricity to Madison. Heartland boss Mike McDowell proudly tweets HCPD's support for the Sioux Falls project:

Mike McDowell supports SF Events Center -- Twitter, October 5

Your electric bill at work.

Now I'm sure that Heartland can argue that all of the communities it serves can enjoy some ancillary benefit from the increased economic activity Mayor Huether says the new event center will bring to the Sioux Falls metro area. But I'll bet Jerry Heckenliable would argue Madison could get more direct economic benefit if Heartland would stop currying favor with the rich and powerful and leave that money in the pockets of Madison residents to spend as they see fit.


On his work blog at Heartland Consumer Power District, McDowell copies and pastes an entire Robert Samuelson essay (without providing a link to the original) on how tapping the Canadian oil sands will promote America's energy security. McDowell tacks on a paragraph touting the connection of the Bakken oil deposits to Keystone XL:

Added to the Canadian oil for pipeline transportation is what the USGS says is 3 to 4.3 Billion Barrels of technically recoverable oil in the Bakken Formation in Montana, North Dakota, and a small portion of South Dakota that could also use the proposed pipeline. All that oil could replace a significant amount of what we currently import from delightful dictators in countries such as Venezuela and repressive regimes in several unstable Middle East countries [Mike McDowell, "Saying Yes to Canadian (and Bakken) Oil," HCPDBlog, 2011.08.31].

Cover of "Exporting Energy Security" 2011 report from Oil Change International

(read the full report from Oil Change International: PDF document)

Keystone XL could indeed help American national security... if the oil it carried were intended for use in America. But newly appointed South Dakota Transportation Commission member McDowell evidently missed the memo that the Keystone XL pipeline will transport oil straight across the Great Plains to the global export market.

Another memo to that effect came yesterday:

The facts:

  • Keystone XL is an export pipeline. The Port Arthur, Texas, refiners at the end of its route are focused on expanding exports to Europe, and Latin America. Much of the fuel refined from the pipeline's heavy crude oil will never reach U.S. drivers' tanks.
  • Valero, the key customer for crude oil from Keystone XL, has explicitly detailed an export strategy to its investors. Because Valero's Port Arthur refinery is in a Foreign Trade Zone, the company can carry out its strategy tax-free.
  • In a shrinking U.S. market, Keystone XL is not needed. Since the project was announced, the oil industry acknowledges that higher fuel economy standards and slow economic growth mean declining U.S. oil demand, even as domestic production is booming. Oil from Keystone XL will therefore displace American crude from new, "unconventional" domestic fields in Texas or North Dakota."

Oil is a fundamentally global market — the idea that the pipeline enhances our energy security is a scam.... Let's hope the Obama Administration doesn't fall for it. In fact, the only way to truly reduce our dependence on foreign oil is to reduce our dependence on all oil. Let's not fool ourselves that we will achieve "energy independence" by serving as a middleman for access to overseas markets [emphasis mine; Steve Kretzmann, "Report: Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed," Oil Change International, 2011.08.31].

Samuelson's and McDowell's and the State Department's claims that Keystone XL somehow makes America safer are a scam. We won't burn a drop of Keystone XL oil in the U.S. Pipe the Bakken oil into the mix, and that shale oil too will go straight to tax-free Port Arthur and eager Chinese buyers.

This is not the first time McDowell has waved the flag and Hugo Chavez in our faces in his shillery for TransCanada. Such is to be expected from an electric industry representative. McDowell's industry doesn't view TransCanada as an energy supplier; they see TransCanada as a big energy consumer to whom they can sell lots of electricity for those pipeline pumping stations.

Bonus Keystone XL Bits!


Even my lovely wife says I have too many tabs open on my browser (current count: 19). Time to clear the queue! Here's the South Dakota news I'm reading about:

David Chicoine, president of my noble alma mater South Dakota State University, says Governor Dennis Daugaard's 10% budget cut would force around 75 layoffs from campus. Cutting 75 well-educated professionals from the Brookings workforce would cause another 112 workers around the community to lose their jobs providing goods and services. Lose those 187 jobs, and by current Department of Labor stats, Brookings would see its unemployment rate jump a full percentage point. How again is decreasing public services and increasing unemployment better for the economy than raising taxes?

In another example of a Republican plan producing exactly what it was meant to prevent, Senator John Thune says he's avoided Iowa to keep rumors from starting. The only thing that plan is tamping is any chance Thune has of winning the presidency: he finished behind eight other people in the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll.

Most degrading and objectifying portrayal of Rep. Kristi Noem comes not from me but from NY Post blogger Kyle Smith, who refers to our Congresswoman's "delightful topping of just-fell-out-of-bed hair." We know what Smith is fantasizing about. Of course, Smith also says Noem "demolished Obama in the most personable way" and is "the one to watch." They should have put her in the CPAC straw poll.

Locally, Heartland exec Mike McDowell still agrees with me that the efforts to repeal ObamaCare in our state legislature flow from a failure to grasp the Constitution... or a sinister desire to nullify it and refight the Civil War. He wishes the Legislature would get on with real issues. To their credit, Hosue State Affairs has judiciously killed two nullification bills (HB 1088 and HB 1165) and... but a silly nullification resolution (HCR 1004) passed the House 42-26.


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