Pipelines, Ethanol, and Dipsticks

Update March 5:  President Obama Vetoes Keystone Pipeline.
The Senate failed to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, the first of many confrontations expected between the Republican-controlled Congress and the White House this year over energy policy.

Update–March 2: Could a Compromise Work for the Keystone Pipeline?

In a time when polarization is more popular than viral cat videos on YouTube, a middle-of-the-road solution is probably not on the table for the Keystone Pipeline, but according to this editorial, Michael Bloomberg has a good idea: “The Obama administration should negotiate directly with the Canadian government, and come up with a climate pact that would more than offset the emissions that would be generated–indeed, are already being generated–by mining the oil from the sands. Though it is unlikely to satisfy the partisans on both sides, it is a wonderfully sensible solution.”

I don’t know the specifics of the plan, but I do know…

Oil issues were so much easier when we cruised around in a 1960’s teenage stupor. I could pull up to a pump at the local DX station and watch the owner fill the tank with gas that cost 37 cents a gallon—even less if a “gas war” was on. I had no idea about octane levels, miles per gallon, or the source of our fuel. It came from the pump, and it powered my ’56 Chevy so it could take me to school, ball games, farm jobs, and the drive-in theater in Ames.
Since then, complications have set in: shortages, gluts, environmental issues, real wars, and biofuel options. If I were seventeen again, maybe I’d be talking about pipelines and ethanol rather than Hurst 3-speed transmissions and 8-track sound systems. 
Pipeline Debate
President Obama recently made good on his threat to veto a Republican-backed bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. This is great or disastrous depending on who is bending your ear about the issue. This article looks at both sides, but you could probably spend the rest of the week reading articles online about the debate.
In 1967, we’d be at Pooch’s gas station, shootin’ the breeze, watching Johnny pull up with his tanker truck. As far as we knew, the oil came from some wells in Texas that James Dean and Rock Hudson had once fought over. “Fill er’ up.”
Ethanol RFS Debate
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to offer a proposal for Renewable Fuels Standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016 this spring–finally. This is also a contentious issue (what topic isn’t nowadays?). Some Senators are working on a bill to eliminate corn ethanol mandates in the RFS, while others, such as the National Corn Growers, think that would be a huge mistake.
We used to spend hours cruising country roads that were bordered by oceans of cornfields, and not one of us Eddie Haskells looked across the fields and said, “Gee, maybe we could stop and insert some corn in the tank for fuel. It will be environmentally friendly and ease our dependence on foreign oil.” The speaker would have been called a dork, dipstick, or worse.
Maybe it is a good time nowadays to keep “shoving corn into the fuel tank.” And maybe yet another pipeline is needed. I’ll leave those decisions to others. I just pine for the days when the conversation was focused more on sock hops, chrome rims, and the rumors of a weekend kegger. 
We may have been dipsticks, but we produced enough hot air to fuel a high-performance engine. Come to think of it, some of the dipsticks in the current debates are also good at pumping out hot air. Let’s hope folks work together on both issues to do what’s best for the country. We need more cruisin’ and fewer traffic jams.
by dan gogerty (top pic from redbubble.com, bottom one from flickr.com)

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