Ill-informed in Indiana
Posted June 2, 2008 in Moving Beyond Oil
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was in Benton County last week to kick off construction of a new wind farm with BP executives. That embrace of alternative energy is something to celebrate, right?
I was pretty excited by the news about the huge project in the Northwest Indiana Times…until I came to this section of the article:
Daniels also used the moment to comment on the larger theme of energy independence. And he thanked U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., for not joining those who oppose the expansion of BP's Whiting refinery.
"The ill-informed, I'll be charitable, who would stop, first of all, the biggest single investment, thousands of construction jobs and countless jobs beyond, but forget that, a refinery that will contribute to the end of $4 per gallon gas," Daniels said in a bold forecast and swipe at critics.
The Natural Resources Defense Council has said it plans to sue BP in federal court for alleged Clean Air Act violations at the refinery. Environmental groups also have challenged the state air permit for the expanded BP refinery.
Are you kidding me? Let’s review—that man speaking was the Governor of Indiana, not a BP spokesperson, right?
The expansion project that Daniels is heralding to end $4 gas is just the opposite---it is a sign that the oil companies are pretty confident that high prices are here to stay.
BP is making a $4 billion bet that high gas prices continue with that refinery. It will be the largest tar sands refining facility in the U.S. and tar sands can only be profitable when oil prices are high. To get the stuff out of the ground in Canada, they have to rip up the ancient carbon-eating forests, dig out sands by the ton, boil it to extract the bits of bitumen, and then go through additional refining processes just to get something like more typical petroleum products. With all of that, it was too expensive to use the stuff broadly until oil prices went through the roof. (Deron Lovaas has had some really strong postings about current gas prices.)
Besides, the refinery won’t be online until 2011, so it would have had no impact on current prices at the pump. The NRDC challenge to BP’s air and water permits will not stop this expansion---while we have real concerns about the environmental impact of tar sands, this is not an effort to stop the refinery. It is an effort to force the state to meet the standard of the law. Indiana’s regulators are not forcing BP to adequately protecting its citizens, Lake Michigan, or the surrounding communities...That is why we are fighting. I have no idea what the state is fighting for, though some in the local media have some thoughts (second item in link).
And as long as I am splitting hairs with the top dog in the Hoosier state, what is up with the “countless jobs” reference? He has been swapping talking points with BP on this project and knows very well how many jobs will be created---which is not many after the construction is complete. This is a $4 billion project that will create less than 100 permanent jobs. Yes, they are needed in northwest Indiana, but everyone in the region is going to be paying an inordinately high price for a handful of new positions if the state continues to stonewall NRDC’s efforts or the Illinois Congressional delegation does not convince the USEPA to fix the air permits.
Look, this is deep stuff. There are far better voices on this blog than me to talk about the energy crossroads we find ourselves at in this moment---but I am pretty comfortable pointing out that this was a wasted opportunity. Instead of tossing short-sighted blame-game-bombs, I wish the governor could have used the unique combination of windmills and oil execs to talk about big picture energy policies for the state of Indiana and the United States.
I could go on, but I think I’ll be charitable and hold off on pointing out the other ways that Governor Daniels is ill-informed.
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