I had no idea just how timely my ride would prove to be. I received my July-August issue of Audubon today. The “Incite” column is about the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. It’s a pipeline that would carry a toxic blend of crude and diluting chemicals from the Tar Sands of Alberta to refineries in Texas, along the way following a route similar to what I just rode.
In addition to cutting through the open grasslands of southwest South Dakota, the fragile and irreplaceable Sand Hills, and possibly in or near the Flint Hills, the pipeline would be laid within the Ogallala Aquifer. The Ogallala Aquifer is an underground body of water found beneath eight states in the Great Plains. In an earlier post I mentioned that Phelps County, NE was one of the most heavily irrigated counties in the country. Care to guess what the water source for those center-pivots is? The Ogallala Aquifer. The Ogallala Aquifer also provides much of the water that makes the Sand Hills the unique wetland system it is. Oh yeah - it also provides drinking water for much of that region. I could go on, but I don’t think I need to.
What I will do is ask why they want to build that pipeline. Because they need to get all that oil refined and distributed to cars, planes, etc around the world. The same reason there are oil wells being drilled across western North Dakota. To feed our need. OUR need. I have two internal combustion vehicles in my garage – my car and the bike I rode on my trip. Each one requires a petroleum product. Multiple petroleum products, actually.
About a year ago, a wind farm was proposed to be built in the small farming community a few miles south of my home. I went to several meetings to see what my neighbors thought. The vocal response from the community was clearly against putting turbines in their backyards and farm fields. As I was walking my dogs early one morning at about that time, I looked up and noticed the smoke column from the coal-fired power plant less than 10 miles to the north. I wondered what might be raining down on us whenever the wind blew from the north. Would people prefer that to noise and flicker from turbines? It occurred to me at that moment that the problem was not wind turbines.
The problem is energy. The problem is our demand for energy. As long as we continue to demand more and more energy and oil, they’ll continue to build wind farms and pipelines. How do we change that? By reducing our consumption. By making conscious decisions. By acting deliberately.