Over the years, I have found those I sit beside on a plane while traveling with interesting people. As many of us are aware, some would just assume sitting alone or ignoring that we exist altogether, which is fine. I am one of those who, perhaps many, hope not to sit by. I enjoy learning from (who, at the time we start the flight) complete strangers. I now have friends with our initial contact starting on a flight.
On one occasion, while traveling to Washington DC, I was boarding late. As I remember, I was the last to find my seat. It is interesting watching the faces of those sitting by empty seats, thinking, “Is he going to sit by me.” For fun, you ought to fake some of these people out, lean as though you are going to take the seat, then say “psyche.”
My seat was the aisle seat, in a row of three seats. The person next to my seat, a male, appeared to be a businessman. He was very friendly; I knew he and I would talk on the flight. The man next to the window, a male, also seemed as though he was a businessman and interested in the person sitting between us.
After we all settled and reached altitude, I asked the guy next to me what he was going to DC for. His answer was interesting; he pulled out of his briefcase a vial of fluid, asking me to guess what it was. I took the bottle from him. It was about two ounces and in clear glass. I looked at it, and shook it (happy it was not nitroglycerin), trying to discover what it was. It was as clear as water and did not bubble up when shaken. I thought water would be obvious and he wouldn’t be so proud of water to put it in this small container. Unwilling not to put forth a guess, I pondered. As I sat with a perplexed look, he said, take off the top and smell it. Okay, that certainly will help. I loosened the lid, lifting it off carefully to avoid spilling it. While all this was happening, I could tell others around me were interested in my seat partner and what we were doing. With the lid off, I lifted it to my nose to smell it. There was no smell at all; this is a trick, I thought. Clear as water with no smell at all. Again wanting to put out some guess, I called uncle, commenting this is water. He wanted this response. I could tell as he told me it was diesel fuel.
Okay, that’s not funny; this is not diesel. I drive a diesel truck. He laughed and said it was, in fact, diesel fuel. I didn’t want to be sucked into something funny, so I said who are you. Brian Schweitzer. The Montana governor, I responded, asking, is your bodyguard next to you? No, he is a reporter, just headed to DC. It all started to add up now; that is why everyone around us is so interested in this guy.
Schweitzer, at the time, was the second most popular governor in America, behind our governor in Utah, Jon Huntsman. Now completely fascinated, I asked how on earth this vial of clear liquid with no smell was diesel fuel. He explained it comes from coal in Montana. A German invented a process to extract this fuel from coal about one hundred years ago. The fuel burns cleaner and has higher BTUs than fuels from crude. It costs about $30 per barrel to refine and has natural gas, sulfur, and other components for beneficial use as a part of the process. Right now, the cost to build a plant is too expensive for the free market to risk the investment, nearly 4 billion dollars. If an individual or corporation builds a plant and the OPEC nations lower the cost below the $30 figure, the plant is rendered useless (At the time he was sharing this story with me, crude was over $100 a barrel). There are hundreds of billions of barrels in the ground. We can extract these resources without hurting the environment. As citizens of America, we could be the recipients of the dollars spent on fuel; these dollars could be used in our country to better our neighborhoods. (http://bit.ly/montanagov) The governor went on to explain that he was asking the federal government to intervene, limiting the risk to the open market.
I was fascinated and suggested I would tell my members of congress to support whatever legislation may come out of his meetings. This has been a couple of years, and I have heard nothing about his venture. My hope is that it is forthcoming and will be available to us as Americans, limiting our dependence on foreign oil.
The reason this is on my mind, again today, is it appears to me that gas prices have creped up again without much media attention. Have we become numb to the cost of our fuels and the fact that there are other opportunities?
Recently I have learned an additional fact about our country’s resources, which only begs my question: why don’t we use our own technology, fuels, and people to provide for our own needs? Here is a new fact: in addition to all the domestic reserves found in our country (one in my home state of Utah), there is yet a new discovery. It is called Bakken (http://bit.ly/bakkenoil). Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay. The EIA (Energy Information Administration) estimates there are 503 billion barrels in this new discovery (http://bit.ly/usgsrelease). At $30.00 a barrel, over 15 trillion dollars for this find alone! As I write this, crude is at $81.25 per barrel. This Bakken find is worth nearly 41 trillion dollars in today’s market!!! I understand that the Bakken reserve can be extracted for around $16 per barrel and could fuel our country’s needs for over 2000 years straight. Think of having these dollars kept on our soil, eliminating our building up foreign countries or their regimes with our money.
I am an environmentalist by my own definition. I served as chair of my state’s quality growth commission and am currently serving on our state parks board. I love our open space, views, and vistas and want to protect our critical lands. That said, I believe we are blessed with resources for our use.
Not understanding what keeps us from using our assets, I would love to have this post be the start of a dialog helping us understand. If I am way out in the left field with what I have written, please post why; I truly want to learn. If you feel it is accurate, post those comments as well. If you know of additional facts, post them with links to help us all.
Collectively, with knowledge and understanding, we can assist in correcting what may be wrong.