By Charlie Barber. Reprinted by permission of the author and the High Plains Reader.
“I don’t know what we’re standing in the way of. This is a full-blown boom. Instead of sending $1 billion a day to buy oil from the Mideast, we can send it to the Midwest of our own country.”
– Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D.,
Bismarck Tribune, 4/4/12
“Some of the wise monkeys in North Dakota’s Oil Patch (“see no evil,” “hear no evil,” “speak no evil” of Japanese folklore) would like the state’s news media to censor the news coming out of oil country. Maybe “censor” is too strong a word. They want news manipulated to emphasize the positive (there is plenty of it) and downplay the negative (there is plenty of that, too.)”
– Fargo Forum, 4/13/12
“The simple truth is that the long-term viability of all UND athletics is at risk [if the ‘Fighting Sioux’ nickname is kept].”
– Rick Burgum, UND Alumni
Association, Bismarck Tribune, 5/2/12
“…where ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise.”
– Thomas Gray
Another attempt to ram through the Keystone XL Pipeline to meet China’s and Big Oil’s needs rather than energy needs of the United States has surfaced.
North Dakota State Government executive and legislative branches separate North Dakota taxpayers from the fruits of their earth — midwestern oil.
While recovering from this bad news in my backyard overlooking Mandan High School, I noticed two strange critters having a spirited conversation.
Usually my backyard, which is shared in the rear with several of my neighbors, is merely populated by wild birds, rabbits and the raptors which soar above them,…and even deer. Maybe they know that I only hunt politicians [an open season and no bag limit], and thus feel safe, but they are numerous at all times of the year.
But these guys were different.
When I went out my back door to confront these strange creatures I recognized my old friend the Oil Genie.
HPR: Why Oil Genie, what brings you back to my place here in Mandan?
OG: We can’t afford the motel rates around here, and they are also not partial to Trolls, like my friend here.
HPR: I see. So you Sir are a Troll?
Troll Wizard: Not simply a Troll. I am a Troll Wizard.
HPR: What do Troll Wizards do?
TW: I have left the comfort of my cave, and the shelter of my Troll bridge to come to North Dakota and advocate for the students of The University of North Dakota.
HPR: Isn’t that a bit unusual for a Troll? I thought that you didn’t care any more about people than corporations run by the Koch Brothers did.
TW: Usually we don’t, but we like the image enhancement that would come with being chosen as a nickname for a college hockey team: “The Fighting Trolls.”
HPR: I didn’t realize that Trolls were that sensitive to “image.”
TW: Of course we are. Just because we’re selfish and indifferent to the fate of humans, doesn’t mean that we are not sensitive to our own concerns.
That’s why we admire Donald Trump so much – a Troll, if there ever was one in human form.
OG: I’ve asked my Troll Wizard friend here to help me convince North Dakotans to seek another nickname for their hockey team, so that State Government can turn to serious issues, like the impact of ungoverned oil and gas development on the Bakken.
TW: I’ll do my best, but, while we like the idea of “Trolls on Ice,” I don’t think it will help folks in western North Dakota all that much, even if we do end up driving Zambonis. After all, human replicas of Trolls are in charge of your State Government.
The current Governor, Jack Dalrymple, wants to “hold the line on spending,” and cut State agencies by 3%, while tax money that is the envy of the other 49 States continues to pour into the State Treasury. House Republican Majority Leader, Al Carlson, refuses to consider real expenditures on infrastructure, public health and safety on and near the Bakken, even as the money to pay for it rolls in. Instead he keeps promoting “The Fighting Sioux” nickname for UND with those very State funds. And your Republican U.S. Senator, John Hoeven, continues to push for the Keystone XL PIpeline which would pump oil from Canada to China, benefiting only Troll billionaires outside of the State, rather than pipelines which benefit drivers and taxpayers all over the American Midwest.
HPR: Do you think that pipelines could have nicknames, like college hockey teams?
OG: I don’t see why not. I don’t know if the “XL” in the Keystone XL Pipeline stands for “extra large,” but that would certainly be appropriate for the size of the pipes necessary to move that gunk from the Tar Sands. What they really would need, of course, is XXL.
TW: Pipeline nicknames do have possibilities, but I don’t think CEO’s and politicians have the necessary senses of humor to pull off such a project.
HPR: How so?
OG: Right now there are two sensible pipelines for Bakken sweet crude to existing outlets in Clearbrook, Minnesota, a distance of only 350 miles, compared to the thousands of miles for the nastier bitumen from Alberta. One of them is proposed by Saddle Butte of Colorado. Another is proposed by the Affiliated Tribes: Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikira. The Colorado pipeline could be called “The Fighting Sioux Pipeline,” and that would keep most white guys happy. Except Al Carlson, of course. He never seems to be happy about anything.
TW: A Troll after my own heart. And the Affiliated Tribes pipeline could be called “The Fighting Troll Pipeline”- to assuage a Native American sense of humor.
HPR: Isn’t that rather offensive?
OG: Of course. Really funny stuff often is offensive to one group or another. It’s just a matter of one’s perspective. I once heard a Native American woman say during a party that she “hadn’t had so much fun since Teddy Roosevelt died.” I suppose a number of white people might be offended by that, but I thought it was hilarious.
HPR: And in bad taste.
OG: Perhaps, but that is the point. Have you ever heard of Williams and Ree?
HPR: You mean “The Indian and the White Guy?” I saw them at Høstfest. They were a riot.
OG: That’s right. An Indian and a white guy saying terrible things about each other’s ethnicity, and everyone is laughing their heads off. It’s the stuff inside the pipelines that matters, just like the stuff inside people, but we often need humor to bring it out.
HPR: Do you really think that CEO’s and State Government officials have enough imagination to choose substance over imagery and dress it up with humor?
OG: Not the ones in charge right now. But if they continue to take themselves more seriously than they do the real issues, they may not be in charge much longer.
TW: And be replaced by folks who understand that two good pipelines from North Dakota to Minnesota are much better than one bad one from Canada to Texas.