It’s sort of a new chapter of horrible unfolding each day in North Dakota. This week, I watched the arrival and deployment of 900 law enforcement officials from 17 counties, 12 cities, and four states using public funds to protect Energy Transfer Partners' private project, the Dakota Excess (Access) Pipeline.
Troops sweep in, batons take aim at hands and heads, tear gas is poured on people, and Morton County feels the need to strip and cavity search individuals facing misdemeanor charges.
“We’re choking on hate and nobody seems to care,” Attorney Angela Bibens said. While 250 strip searches are underway, women are forced to stand naked in front of male officers; I am horrified.
In the meantime, woven stories of hearsay, and rumors speak of Indians stealing cattle (some 30 were claimed as missing and found, a week later by a Sioux County rancher), and an Iraq War vet is arrested by Morton County, for the pipeline. He tells me that this is what he thought he was fighting for in Iraq; his country. Today his country is the Missouri River.
I have to ask what this is all about. Is it about “energy independence” or is it about hate and profits?
Consider this past month, the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) released data revealing a significant drop in production. Bakken production was down 46,433 barrels per day to 930, 931. For North Dakota, the agency reports an average of 981,039 barrels of oil daily in August, down from 1.029 million barrels of oil daily in July. That 900,000 barrels per day is projected until 2019. That market is already being served by present pipelines and rail cars.
Where is the additional 570,000 barrels per day, which will be filling this Dakota Access/Dakota Excess Pipeline, coming from? What would justify so much social destruction? Some may say that this will stop the so called “bomb trains,” but this is not true; first oil train traffic is a slip of what it was two years ago, and second, railroads serve different customers than pipelines.
The fact that this pipeline will go through Iowa farm and (farmers are getting arrested as well), to Illinois, and then the Gulf Coast is a moral challenge to all of us. After all, it’s not really US energy independence if we are exporting 5 million barrels daily; at the expense of decency and environmental review. Lucky for Energy Transfer and others interested in profiting from trade agreements, the 40-year ban on exporting U.S. crude was lifted last December. Since then, there's been a sevenfold increase in America's oil exports.
Let me present what I think is a sane answer: real energy independence. If we spent the $3.9 billion price tag of the Dakota Excess Pipeline on renewable energy, we would have 5 kW per house of residential solar (about half the need) for 64,629 houses, 323 two-megawatt power plants (enough to power most of North Dakota) and 161,000 retrofits worth about $8000 apiece for individual homes. This would save some homeowners about $300 a year in heating costs.
Now, that’s energy independence.
I feel like I am looking at Honduras or El Salvador. Troops sweep in, batons take aim at hands and heads, tear gas is poured on people, and Morton County feels the need to strip and cavity search individuals facing misdemeanor charges. This is not the democracy that I expect; and frankly I think that the rights of corporations should not be at the expense of human rights.
I would like solar and wind, clean air and water, and some peace.