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Richard Larsen: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

November 8th, 2010 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

With crude oil prices hovering near $90 per barrel and unleaded gasoline prices near $3 per gallon, we all stand to benefit from a venture that seeks to increase oil production in North America. But as is usually the case, there is a dogged special interest group seeking to not only derail the effort, but to deny us, the citizens of Idaho, the commercial benefits of the proposed venture.

Canadian based Imperial Oil, the world’s largest producer of synthetic oil harvested from oil sands, is investing $8 billion in expanded operations in Alberta. Included in that investment is $100 million in transportation costs to transport 35,000 tons of South Korean-made mining equipment across northern Idaho’s U.S. Highway 12, which has been handling over-sized loads safely for 20 years, from the Port of Lewiston.

The shipments will take about a year, 3-4 per week in the middle of the night, to transport the 207 loads from Lewiston to Missoula, and then cross the Canadian border at Sweetgrass, MT. The logistical planning, with public and environmental safety as primary objectives, has been two years in the works. It requires a stretch of highway with no overpasses or tunnels, which Highway 12 features, and necessitates installation of numerous turnouts to allow late night travelers and emergency vehicles passage. Imperial Oil and Exxon Mobile, their partner in the project, are paying the cost to improve turnouts, and will be required by Governor Otter to post a $10 million bond to pay for any possible damage to infrastructure. This is only a precaution and likely unnecessary since weight distribution to the highway will be less than a standard loaded semi.

The Port of Lewiston, Idaho’s unique shipping hub hundreds of miles inland from the Pacific coast, allows importers and exporters to shave millions of dollars off of transportation costs by utilizing the Columbia to Snake River shipping corridor bypassing Washington and Oregon. The Port of Lewiston, Idaho’s only seaport, stands to make $80,000 per month for the next year handling the oversize loads coming from South Korea, and facilitates exports of Idaho wheat and other agricultural products to Asian countries.

With all the benefits to Idaho, revenue at the Port, good-paying shipping jobs, over-time pay to the state patrol officers accompanying the shipments, and nearly $70 million in direct economic impact, it’s hard to imagine anyone in their right minds would oppose the venture. Yet there is opposition, and it brings to mind the truism, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Advocates for the West and the New York based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who are opposed to the Alberta oil sands project, are attempting to derail it by blocking the mining equipment shipments. The NRDC is the self-serving radical group that nearly destroyed the apple industry in Washington state 20 years ago after it colluded with CBS’s “60 Minutes” producing a scientifically unwarranted scare over the use of Alar to prevent early drop with Washington’s apple harvest. In April 1989 Science magazine exposed the Alar scare as a hoax, based on scientific research, and a 1990 book, Fear of Food, characterized NRDC’s Alar scare as “a deliberately misleading environmentalist fund-raising campaign.”

Still, the discredited environmental group trumpets its impudent and factually fallacious agenda as just cause to prevent economic development, job growth, and energy production. And now Idaho is in its crosshairs.

So many of these fringe “save the earth” groups are really self-serving special interest extremist groups that are anti-business, anti-natural resource development, anti-capitalism, and anti-human progress groups that utilize emotional attachment with nature as a tool to harvest donations from gullible, yet well-intentioned donors. Which brings to mind another aphorism, “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

The Port of Lewiston manager is right on when he said “activity leads to activity.” A venture like this increases commercial activity, not only of the transportation variety, but has ripple effects through Idaho’s economy. That means capital flowing through the state, increased monetary velocity, which means more investment, more jobs, more job security and more tax revenue.

These groups attempting to block this venture are incapable of looking at the big picture, and “choke at a gnat and swallow a camel” with their myopic and self-aggrandizing agendas. These groups would be not be attempting to block these shipments if they were turbines or blades for a wind farm! It’s an agenda with them. And right now they are utilizing mass emails to their members and other dupable targets to prevent a viable and safe commercial venture from benefiting Idaho. We need to assess cogently and logically the self-aggrandizing motives of these special interest groups versus the Idaho jobs, economic growth, and energy benefits they seek to thwart. Let’s collectively and individually not be complicit in their self-serving agenda at Idaho’s expense.

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