Dakota Access Pipeline Protests: Not So Peaceful

November 2016, Vol. 243, No. 11

On the weekend of Oct. 15-16, criminals using the guise of “peaceful protesters” again torched millions of dollars of equipment involved in the multi-state Dakota Pipeline construction. This time the crime took place is Reasnor, IA, along the construction route.

In early September the criminals destroyed millions more in heavy equipment at a site in North Dakota, which has been the focal point of the illogic protest against the permitted pipeline.

One may ask why the equipment wasn’t better protected. One might ask why the lead developer, Energy Transfer Partners, wasn’t better prepared for  potential opposition. Maybe billionaire CEO Kelcy Warren should have visited those along the pipeline route before and during construction. Or maybe he did. ETP isn’t exactly media friendly.

Or perhaps Warren was consumed with the legal battle he finally won to finagle his way out of his ill-thought attempted takeover of Williams Companies. During my 25 years of covering the industry I’ve found that in many cases, companies can grow too fast for their own good.

Couple of interesting points: after a thorough investigation, state officials found there was no evidence of any historical artifacts in the most disputed section of the project, thus muting the protesters’ key point of contention.

And I want to know who really instigated this travesty of a protest. I doubt the Native American tribes initiated these illegal actions, though they were quick to join in when the opportunity presented itself.

After all, there were many well-publicized and documented hearings in which they could have raised questions about the pipeline, but evidently they never did. Once the permits were granted and construction was well underway, that small band of well-organized anti-fossil fuel agitators – emboldened by the Keystone rejection – again manipulated social media to gather forces to fight the pipeline, apparently by any means available.

This time they were helped by a friendly news media that has drawn unfavorable and inaccurate parallels of wealthy Big Oil interests vs. the plight of the long-suffering Native Americans.

In today’s world, it is socially unacceptable to criticize Native Americans, and rightfully so. But it’s also irresponsible to condone criminal activities by anyone, or the hidden manipulation of the Native Americans for the singular benefit of the anti-fossil fuel agitators, who one might think, were trying to stage their own version of Woodstock.

Add to the mix a politically savvy White House which ordered an immediate stop to construction near the contested site and in an unprecedented move, called for a review of existing permits that may not have taken into consideration the needs of Native Americans.

President Obama has shown a curious attitude toward natural gas (which he says he likes) and oil (which he likes more than coal but less than natural gas because he continues to take credit for cheap gasoline prices).

Obama, like most of his backers, prefers so-called “clean” energy to fossil fuels. Under his watch, the EPA has actively gone after coal, which has made the natural gas industry very happy. The nation’s energy renaissance has largely occurred during his tenure, and in reality, he did little to hinder activity.

He probably would have approved the Keystone pipeline had not climate change become his “legacy” issue and the mantra of the day. Energy was never a priority for Obama because it provided a struggling economy with plenty of jobs and $2 gasoline.

By the time you read this column, we’ll probably know who our next president will be, providing that Donald Trump will stop toying with our democracy and accept the likely consequences of this low-brow election. Neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton gives energy a second thought.

Trump wants to bring back the coal industry, confiscate Middle East oil, and open up drilling everywhere, which would result in another catastrophic financial disaster for the industry. Clinton isn’t as ideologically opposed to oil and gas as Obama, though she says she wants more public participation and extended permitting hearings. But that could change depending on who she talks to on any particular day. After all, she was Secretary of State when Keystone first came up in 2010. She was never really against the project, until she was against it. Which to me means that everything is on the table.

That’s it for now. Next month I’m giving myself an early holiday present, off of pipelines.

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