Sunday, January 30, 2011

Now I'm really confused

<$BlogMetaData$>Now I’m Really Confused

I had originally written my article for this week offering choices between ‘cap and trade’ or no cap and trade. I found out that ‘cap and trade’ was dead on arrival. I wasn’t even invited to the funeral. The EPA would have been the traffic cop for ‘cap and trade.’ The EPA is the only thing keeping us between a rock and a hard place.

As many of you know, after the election in November, Governor Daugaard said that anyone against Hyperion was an environmental extremist. The new governor had dashed my vision of what the Republican Party stood for and to avoid further embarrassment, switched to being an Independent. I’m still a Republican at heart, and will let it go at that. I don’t want this column to become a sounding board for my political beliefs. Ergo; the rest of this article.

One of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for President is Newt (Grinch) Ginrich from Georgia. He came out with a statement the other day that is leaving really me quite bewildered. He is proposing that we do away with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and replace it with an agency called the ESA (Environmental Solutions Agency). Isn’t this what bureaucrats do after every election? He claims that the EPA has become so bogged down with litigations and enforcing the laws that were designed to protect the environment that they have lost sight of their objective. DUH! That is what the agency was formed to do. If they don’t do it, who will? We need something on a national level to enforce the decisions made by congress. If we leave it up to the individual states we will have 50 different laws for the same thing. He said that the EPA has become the bureaucracy of choice for Presidents and ideologues to exert more control over the decision making of the private sector and local and state governments, stifling the very innovation and entrepreneurship that is necessary to achieve a cleaner environment.

Such an agency would create a stronger economy with more American jobs and more American energy, all while protecting human health and the environment. And at a time when Americans are demanding smaller government, the time to replace the EPA with a leaner, more efficient agency has never been better. It has been my experience with Washington that change does nothing more than increase the size of government..

My question is where does this leave us? Do we settle for an agency that makes decisions based on whichever way the wind blows or do we strive to provide support for an institution that will actually do something good for everyone including the environment. The EPA cannot be an effective agency if they change their decisions every time some new politician comes into power. I think the Grinch is basing his decision on information that is not only unfounded but inaccurate.

Here is what his solution to the problem is: The EPA should be replaced with the Environmental Solutions Agency, which would incorporate the necessary statutory responsibilities of the old EPA while eliminating the job-killing regulatory abuses and power grabs of the old EPA. This would be achieved by bringing together science, technology, entrepreneurs, incentives, and local creativity to create a cleaner environment through smarter regulation. I thought this is what we have now. Everyone has opinions, but a rush to judgment is not the answer. Before we had the EPA we had nothing. The “Clean Air Act of 1970” created the EPA and set the standards for clean energy, but was mainly aimed at the automobile. Now we have standards that industry must meet or the EPA will shut them down. It took 40 years for the EPA to reach the point they are at now.

For every example the Grinch gives to do away with the EPA, I’m sure we can show cause that they should be left alone. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I may be selfish here, but we need the EPA, If for no other reason that it is keeping Hyperion out of here. (There, I finally got to the crux of this article.) The state of South Dakota DENR is flaunting its power by stating that Hyperion doesn’t need an environmental impact statement to do business in this state. The EPA says that it is imperative that they prove they can operate without doing harm to the environment and that includes the human factor. Without a regulatory agency to run roughshod over wannabe’s like Hyperion things would be totally out of control. If you don’t have standards, you have nothing. There are 145 refineries in the United States; some have been operating for over 75 years. Can you imagine the chaos if they all operated at the whim of whoever happened to be President at the time?

I would like to quote James Heisinger on his thoughts for the EPA. “We must support the EPA; they arrived like a gift from God, just in time to stall an incredible and deserving flood of industrial carcinogens and environmental destruction, a gift from corporate America. Unless we at least support the EPA, and place some trust in science the good life on this good earth will continue the present remarkably rapid change. We will have cast ourselves out of the figurative Garden of Eden.”


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Up Jumps the Snakes

<$BlogMetaData$>“Up jump the snakes!”

I was really going to be good this week and write a nice, sweet informative article about the beautiful tar sands up in Canada and suddenly up jumps a snake, in fact, up jump two snakes, and I’m turning into the “Mad Hatter.”

The first part of my article concerns the subject Julie Madden wrote in the Hometowner last week about redistricting. (One of the nice things about my articles is that Julie reports the news and I get to pontificate.)

As you well know, I mentioned several times last year that the commissioners election was critical because 2010 was a census year and district boundary lines within the state and county are going to be set according to population density. Now, the mouse is coming out of the woodwork. If it happens like I think it will happen, (I haven’t been wrong lately,) I would like to call this redistricting “Taxation without representation.” We will have absolutely no vote in how it’s done, and won’t like it when it is finished.

The main portion of Julie’s article concerned a statement made by Representative James Bolin (16th District) when he met with the commissioners about slicing up Union County, and his state district. He offered several scenarios that could come into play that is appealing depending on your governing interests. (i.e. Commissioner’s and Representative Districts) This covered slicing up the north half of the county and combining with Lincoln County. Combining with Vermillion is another possibility. - AND – they would probably leave it up to SECOG (Southeast Council of Governments) a “non-profit” (government) organization out of Sioux Falls to draw the lines. Now you have to understand here, that SECOG could give a rip as to our wants and needs in the county. (You saw what happened with the zoning ordinance rewrite.) They are the government, we are just one slice in their pie, and they are here to help us. The last time SECOG performed its magic with redistricting, we lost two good commissioners, Roger Boldenow and Dale Harkness.

Whenever you hear someone from the government come in and say “Hi I’m from the government and I’m here to help you,” you better pack your bags and head for the hills cause it ain’t gonna be a good deal. You’re about to get the shaft, because they got the goldmine. Political posturing is going to weigh heavily on drawing the district lines. You can bet your bottom dollar that Dakota Dunes will want 2 commissioners just for the dunes.

Why on earth would we leave it up to SECOG to set the lines? I’m pretty sure the state law says the commissioners are responsible to set the district lines. (It is called gerrymandering.) Are people scared to make decisions anymore? (I could re-e-e-ly say something nasty here but I won’t)

Union county is unique in that it might have something that everybody wants a piece of. It is called HYPERION. This is the golden cow. Anyway, back to my story. The one thing that has only been mentioned once that I know of is that it was suggested that the far southern end of the county could end up with 3 commissioners. Now you had better read this closely because it is going to kill Union County if we only have 5 commissioners and 3 of them are in the Dakota Dunes, McCook Lake, Wynstone and North Sioux City area. That leaves the entire rest of the county with only 2 commissioners to represent us because of the population shift. The only fair solution I can see to this is to increase the number of commissioners from 5 to 7. And don’t be foolish enough to think this discussion hasn’t taken place, because it most certainly has. The commissioners aren’t stupid.

Not only will this affect the commissioners, but each commissioner appoints one member to the planning and zoning board from their district. Now if you don’t think that will screw things up and create a mess, holy mackerel dere Andy!

The other issue is also from Representative Jim Bolin. He mentioned in his weekly press release that this is going to be a tough year as far as the budget is concerned because we aren’t getting any money from the feds, and some tough decisions are going to have to be made because there isn’t enough money to go around. 1) We have to balance our budget. 2) There is no appetite for general tax increase. 3) Sources of revenue declining. 4) No more stimulus funds. I would like to remind Mr. Bolin that he was elected to make tough decisions. I mean, I can make the easy ones, “Yes, Mr. Governor.”

Mr. Bolin has said repeatedly he supports Hyperion. Governor Rounds and Governor Daugaard have both supported Hyperion. Hyperion has said many times lately that they will have shovels in the ground in 2011. Now, is it time for Hyperion to put its money where their mouth is? And is it time to put up or shut up? That first shovelful of dirt is going to be expensive. Woo-Hoo! C’mon South Dakota let’s give it up for Hyperion!

That would mean a minimum of $200 million in excise taxes just to start. Think of that folks, $200 million. That would solve everyone’s problems. OOPS I forgot, Hyperion asked to be treated like all other new businesses in the state and 90% or $182 million of that $200 million in excise tax will be forgiven.(page 18 of variance for Conditional Use Permit or Planned Development section of the zoning ordinance) so the state gets a whopping $18 million dollars. Darn! And just to ensure they get that tax break, they have it written into the Union County zoning ordinance and of course the commissioners signed off on it. What a deal. So Mr. Bolin, there is your solution to number 3 of the states problems, repeal that portion of the excise tax law. Slam dunk Huh? How about a quick phone call to Dallas?

Friday, January 14, 2011

'Oh what a tangled web we weave

<$BlogMetaData$>“Oh what a tangled web we weave”

I’m getting a bit confused here and thought I should share my views with you so that we can be confused together. That way we know what each of us is talking about, we just won’t understand what we are saying. Hyperion calls this techno babble.

One of the things Hyperion has been ‘touting’ as part of the greenest refinery to be built in the last 30 years is a refinery built with IGCC capabilities. Here is the definition of IGCC just to refresh your memories.

An integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) is a technology that turns coal or pet coke into gas—synthesis gas (syngas). It then removes impurities from the coal gas before it is combusted and attempts to turn any pollutants into re-usable byproducts. This results in lower emissions of sulfur dioxide, particulates and mercury. Excess heat from the primary combustion and generation is then passed to a steam cycle, similarly to a combined cycle gas turbine. This then also results in improved efficiency compared to conventional pulverized coal. (The neighbors might not like the sulfur smell, but ‘that’s the oil biz.’) You understand that whole mess don’t you? I wish I did. When I took chemistry in high school, the only word I would have recognized in this whole paragraph would have been coal.

Now, if they are removing the impurities and then use ‘green’ technology to sequester the carbon gas there should be a reduced amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere because it is going to be pressurized, sent down a pipeline to some place that will pump the gas into an area underground where it will be sealed ‘forever’ and never leak. That is unless carbon dioxide is not part of the IGCC process, in which case it will just spew out the stack; 16.9 MILLION TONS of carbon dioxide. This does not include the ‘mistake’ made in their calculations for the methane. Right!

However carbon sequestration, which is a part of the IGCC process, isn’t going to be added to the refinery operation for two reasons. (Maybe there are more). They said long ago that carbon sequestration is not economically feasible. (They said this about IGCC as well but changed their minds.) This will raise the cost of the gas because of the added expense for sequestration. Where are they going to pipe it to? Texas? The other reason is I don’t believe they asked for it in their air permit and according to a very well versed individual they wouldn’t stand a snowballs chance in Hades of getting the permit if that was in it. Again, where are they going to sequester the carbon? It certainly won’t be around here.

Speaking of ‘mistakes’ (I’m putting a lot of words into quotes aren’t I?), does stretching the truth count as a lie or is it a mistake? Back when Hyperion was initially coming up with the data for the HEC, the power plant was going to produce 300KW of power. When they found out that any power plant producing over 250MW of power came under the operational purview of the state PUC, they suddenly revamped their figures and sure enough the plant will only produce 200MW of power instead of the figure first reported of 300MW. Hm-m-m-m-m

Here is an outright lie. Preston Phillips reported that the project would be profitable when the price of oil hits $60 per barrel. Oil hit $60 per barrel so long ago I can’t even remember when it was. As of today oil is at $90 -100 a barrel and pundits are predicting $200 a barrel by this time next year, so where the hell is Hyperion? Man are they missing the boat here. Oh I forgot, it takes money to build things these days and Hyperion doesn’t have any. Shame on me!

Then by golly they reported that the HEC would be using 10-12 million gallons of water from the Missouri river per day to cool the refinery and the coal plant. When they found out that any industry using more than 10,000 acre feet (325,000 gallons = 1 acre foot) has to be approved by the state legislature, they refigured their math and lo and behold they will only be using 9,000 acre feet per day of water. Shazam!

Now here comes the latest blast from the HEC that they ‘forgot’ to include the figures from the power plant when they were figuring the amount of methane that would be emitted by the HEC. It was originally 10, 500 tons of methane but with the power plant figured into the equation it suddenly becomes 20,600 tons of methane. Does the coal fired power plant at the Port Neal facility put out 20,000 tons of Methane and Sulfur Dioxide? The two together would be putting out a hell of a lot of pollution don’t you think? Should those figures be counted into the equation as well? After all, they are only 30 miles (as the crow flies unless of course you fall dead out of the sky) apart aren’t they? I don’t know who their engineering staff is that comes up with all this but they need to be fired. What really bothers me is that they haven’t even started construction yet. Can you imagine the mechanical engineers they will hire to do this if this is the best they can do on the permitting.

If you really want to see what is happening in Alberta, go to YouTube and in the search box, type in some of the following. ‘Tar sands’ Alberta tar sands’ Canadian oil’ there are both pro and con videos about the tar sands. Try to find the one that shows the status of the mining in the year 2020. Look at all the ancillary businesses around the refinery. Propaganda at its best.

Don’t you just love all the double speak that is going on here? Oh what tangled webs we weave when at first we try to deceive.”(Sir Walter Scott)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Well Duh!

<$BlogMetaData$>WELL DUH!

There was such an interesting article in the SCJ last week that I just have to put in my 2 cents worth. The name of the article was ‘Coal-fired power plant blamed for dead zone.’

The article is written about Bastrop, Texas. It seems that the coal-fired power plant and the sulfur dioxide emissions from this plant has killed or is killing all the pecan trees around the plant. DUH!

Now get this, the environmentalists and scientists believe the culprit is the power plant is Bastrop, but the plant’s operators and the state environmental regulator deny sulfur dioxide pollution is the cause. (Does this sound familiar?) Evidence gathered from the Appalachian Mountains to New Mexico suggest otherwise. Sulfur dioxide kills vegetation, especially pecan trees. Are these coal plants burning pet coke for fuel? Could this happen here as well?

Pecan growers in Albany, Georgia have received millions of dollars in an out-of-court settlement with power plants whose sulfur dioxide emissions harmed their orchards. Texas has 19 coal-fired power plants and 4 more are planned. In each area where this phenomenon of dying pecan trees is reported, guess what? There is a coal fired power plant nearby. I won’t go into the description of the areas, except that one orchard used to have 200,000 lbs of pecans a year and now it is down to 8,000. All his trees are dead or dying. The man who owns the orchard says that everything around him is dead, dead, dead. Will Hyperion do this for the farmers here when crops suffer? DUH NO!

I sympathize with those people down there, but if this is happening to trees, what is happening to the people. I wonder if there are increases in cancer or lung diseases as well. Let’s fast forward to Union County. Nay-Sayers around here say this won’t happen here. Look at Port Neal, there isn’t any problem with pollution from that coal plant. I disagree with that statement, because there are increased cases of cancer in that area as well as increases in lung related diseases.

I was listening to Sam Clovis on KSCJ talk radio the other day and he had somebody on there talking about the positive impact Hyperion is going to have on the Siouxland area. I called back on Thursday and got my 2 cents worth in with Sam. I reminded Sam that since Hyperion started this fiasco back in 2006 that Hyperion has not bought even 1 acre of ground. Hyperion still has not said that Union County is the place where the refinery will be built. I asked 4 questions back in early 2007 that still have not been answered by Hyperion. 1) Where is the oil coming from? 2) How will it get here? 3) How will it get out of here? And 4) where is the money coming from? These questions have never been answered.

Just for the record, Eric Williams who is the spokesman for Hyperion says that they will build a ‘bullet’ line from Canada direct to Hyperion HEC. What a load of crud. That would take them 7 years or more to get done. North Dakota or some other state would have to agree to let them run a pipeline and the United States would have to sign a treaty with Canada to let the petroleum cross the border. Of course, it will be a slam dunk for them to get approval from Round’s clone Daugaard. TransCanada says that they are at maximum production of 1 million barrels a day. That is all going on Keystone and XL. There is nothing left for Hyperion. Mr. Huddleston said build it and they will come.

Preston Phillips and Dick White have both said that 2012 is the new target date because it just isn’t economically feasible to build right now with the country the way it is. Baloney, they can’t get any financial backing that’s why.

Preston Phillips is on record 4 years ago saying that it would be profitable to refine tar sands when the price got to $70 a barrel, and we held our breaths that it wouldn’t happen. Well it is now at $95 a barrel and it still is on hold. The one thing that happens when the price of oil goes up is that the price we pay at the pump goes up as well. We are paying $3.00 per gallon now and they are predicting $5.00 by the first part of the summer. And where is Hyperion. They are nowhere to be found. One thing about the price of oil going up, we get to pay for it before and after it gets refined. Remember when they are talking about being profitable, it is for Hyperion NOT Union County.

Sulfur dioxide isn’t the only thing to worry about. Do you remember back when they were having public hearings on the refinery When Hyperion was having public hearings I was at one of the meetings when people were talking about their concerns with the high amount of water being used each day. I asked a Mr. Davis Ford, who was the water expert from Texas A & M, why they don’t buy the Seburn gravel pit and just recycle the water. He replied that they cannot recycle the water because it is too corrosive for use in the pipes at the refinery. That was the end of the conversation. I have thought about this many times, why did we let this go. If the water is too corrosive to be recycled into the refinery, why is it okay for us to use it? I think we screwed up on this issue. Too soon old, too late smart.

People who believe that we will get cheap gas when the refinery comes in should reread the article I had in around the middle of December when I showed the price we are paying here and the price they are paying at the refinery in El Segundo. I wonder if Rounds knows about this. Again, gas is a commodity and it goes to the highest bidder. If you want to have plenty of gas for the fall harvest, you’re going to have to bid for it and then you will have gas running out your ears. Look again at how many refineries are shut down and how many are running at only 60-70% capacity. WELL DUH!