North to Polar Bears, South to Old Mexico
It’s about time. A gallon of gas in Montana can be had for a buck 98 now. That’s a helluva deal. Diana just got home from her annual winter trip to Aruba and filled up the Mercedes for less than a hundred bucks. That’s about half of what we were paying for a tank of gas just this past summer. The price of gas is making everyone feel pretty good. More money to buy beer. When you think about it, a six pack of cheap beer, say Keystone for example, is about twice as expensive as a gallon of gas. That’s cool. I always know there was a correlation between beer and gasoline. Makes perfect sense doesn’t it? I doubt you’re following my train of thought on the subject and you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Well, I’m not too sure myself but I’ll give it a better go. Ready?
Alright, so we’re getting gasoline at the pump at prices we haven’t seen since the last century. And we are feeling pretty good about that. We’ve got a few extra bucks lying around and the economy is picking up even more steam as we slowly but surely emerge from the recent economic slump. The price of oil has a lot of influence on the overall economic health of not only our economy and well being but as well on the international economic picture. Let’s face it, on those levels, oil is the world’s drug of choice. We get high when there’s lots of it and go into withdrawal when it’s scarce. For the time being, however, let’s just assume that we’re on a good roll that may last a while. Life is good at the pump. Keep on pumping.
I know what happens when gas is cheap. Guess. We consume a hell of a lot more of it than we do when it’s above three dollars a gallon. I’ve gone months without filling up my truck and forking over a hundred and fifty bucks at $3.89 s gallon. That’s a chunk of change I don’t always have handy. Now, hell, I won’t think twice about filling up and heading down the highway for business or pleasure. I’ve got people and places I want to go see now that I can afford to. (And by the way, I was just pulling your drawers about Diana going to Aruba on holiday. She went to East Glacier to get the mail).
The problem with that nifty scenario is that when gas is cheap and life is good we do act like a society of junkies. And you know what Neil Young said about that don’t ‘ya? “Every junkie’s like a setting sun, (Needle and the Damage Done, 1970).” I may be acting a bit melodramatic at this point but I can’t help but be thinking about Keystone Beer and Keystone Oil. Shouldn’t the oil cost more than the beer? If we’re tallkin’ Michelob Ultra, or better yet, Moose Drool, our local favorite, I’d be drinking oil. There’s the rub. We’ll be consuming oil like it’s a premier beer unless and until the price of oil goes back up to where it should be.
I know, you’re ready to kick my ass. Why in the hell do I want to see the price of oil to get high and stay high? Well, it’s because many years ago I did one of the greatest hunts of my lifetime in the far northeast corner of Alberta, hard up against the Northwest Territories border and not far from Saskatchewan. That trip to the bush of Alberta was one of the highlights of my life. We hunted out of a small cabin on a remote lake, only reachable by float plane. And we were in the bush, as they say. There wasn’t much in the way of civilization in front of us, in back, or to the side of us for hundreds of miles. I think Great Slave Lake was somewhere between us and the Arctic Circle. And when I sauntered off for a morning hunt I was pretty darned careful about checking my back track, not wanting to to be spending the winter holed up in a polar bear den. I hunted some of the most beautiful, primitive country I’d ever been in up to that point in my life. And to top that off, I killed a big bull moose that to this day hangs on the wall of our ranch house in Montana. The kicker to that story is that where I hunted that weekend in Alberta more than twenty years ago is where the oil for the Keystone Oil Pipeline is coming from. I’ts coming from the Alberta Tar Sands.
I’ve thought on many occasions what that country might look like now and I don’t want to imagine too hard. I’d imagine it doesn’t look too much like it did back then. I’ve heard stories. I’ve not heard good stories about the exploration and extraction of the tar sands from that once pristine region up north. It breaks my heart. So how in the hell can I think good things about the most likely forthcoming construction of a pipeline from there to the Gulf Coast of Texas, carrying the oily residue of a scorched earth policy of strip mining the very country I walked on when I was young? I can’t do it.
From this point on in this writing I have a bad feeling that the more I write the more I’ll be getting in over my head. The subject matter gets pretty complex from here on out so I’ll keep it simple and have it said. Hey, I know we need oil, for our cars, trucks, industry, military, the whole enchilada. I know that. I also know, and so do you, that we need lots of big tracts of unspoiled country with lots of fresh air and water. We don’t just want it, we need it (Jagger, Richards, 1975). We’re beginning to experience a “going, going, gone kind of mentality that should be suited to a more primitive culture than what I’d like to believe we could be. I only have to think ahead a decade or two and don’t like what I fear we might all see on this abused planet of ours. I don’t want to pay three or four dollars a gallon for gas any more than you do. I also don’t want to see that precious country that I hunted when I was young treated like a whore in old Mexico a century ago.
Jobs. Oh yeah, that’s the conundrum. They say there’s thousands of jobs waiting for you, both in northern Alberta, and along the path the Keystone pipeline will traverse. Maybe and maybe not. I’ve heard both sides of that coin and for the record, low gas prices have already, right now and as we speak, slowed things down in the oil patch. So hold onto to that thought for a bit and in the meantime, if jobs or the lack thereof, are the thorn in the side of the most ardent supporters of Keystone XL Pipeline, why not get a little forward thinking and encourage an onslaught of research and development in massive wind and solar technology. Instead of “drill baby drill, (S. Palin)” we go to “build baby build, (W. Beck, 2021)).” They both employ lots of labor and the money is good. Neither scenario is perfect and not without it’s own respective good and poor points. But I’ll bet you a case of Moose Drool beer that the environmental impact on this good earth of ours will be substantially improved if we can graduate to a more pragmatic way to move forward.
I think the whole deal is a whole lot less complex than any of us want to recognize. I know, in my case, it doesn’t take a whole lot of imagining of the landscape in the tar sands country then, when it was primitive, and in it’s prime, and now, chewed up, and spit out, to know which way I want to see us go. So I’ve to to take it back to Neil, “I’ve seen the needle and damage done, a little part of it in everyone, but every junkie’s like the setting sun, (N.Young, Needle and the Damage Done, 1970).”
Here’s to Keystone Beer, Here’s to Keystone Oil, For what it’s worth,
” Let’s drink to the Salt of the Earth, (Jagger, Richards, 1977)”