I had breakfast yesterday morning in a small restaurant nearby, and sat with my back to the wall, as is my custom. I like to watch people. At the table next to me was a couple, obviously not married, as they were conversing. She spoke in a loud voice, self-assured and used to commanding attention. She calmly explained to her partner that the reason for current low gas prices was a plot to put the Bakken producers out of business, so that the United States would not attain energy independence.

As the conversation went on she tossed out some technical jargon, and I realized that she was probably a CPA, or somehow connected to taxes and finance.

She’s part of the best and the brightest, I suppose. I don’t think she has a clue, but she operates on that high level of cluelessness that insulates her from reality, probably reading the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and Forbes. Those are all good publications, of course. They are just not enough of the world.

I spent most of my career on the perimeters of the oil and gas business, among small producers. These are smart and technically gifted people, engineers, land swappers, geophysicists, and yes, even geologists. I started out knowing nothing, of course, and learned a lot from them.

But a man has to be a man, at least once in a while. The adhesive glue that binds those people together is no different from that which binds teachers, Democrats, or the Ku Klux Klan: groupthink.

These men and women, called “independent oil and has producers,” need a huge gift from the public, access to our commons. To approach the public with that idea and to say “we want to do it because we hope to get rich” does not fly. They need a cover story, so they use energy independence.

What a crock. Higher up the line, in the real oil business, the one where they talk about “elephants” instead of the small pockets of hydrocarbons that independents chase, there are no national boundaries. None could care less whether or not the United States makes enough oil and gas to feed itself. There’s no need to let these people onto our lands, building their roads and pads and pipelines. They like to imagine they have no impact, but that is only true in the same sense that the impact of the desk sitting here in my office is measured only by the small footprint the four legs have.

Anyway, I did something both stupid and smart at once … there was a meeting held by the supervisor to the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Billings one night, a woman who stood up against the oil and gas people and was eventually hounded (and personally threatened) out of her job. That night I sat on the side of the room with some fellow Montana Wilderness Association members, and spoke against allowing these people on to the Rocky Mountain Front. I’ll never forget the palpable greed and anger that filled that room, the searing glances … “He spoke against us” said a fellow named Mac the next day. I’d never have a another client in that room, and shortly thereafter took a hefty pay cut from one for whom I did work.

Eventually I would ease out of Billings entirely, make my way to Bozeman, and eventually Colorado. This is not a straight line, a linear progression. I was changing in so many ways, and was unknowingly easing myself out of that business. To that point it was all I knew, but my world was getting bigger by the day. Many things were going on in my life, but from an economic standpoint, having so few ties to the business in Billings certainly helped make it easier to decide to move on.

Some might say I did a stupid thing. In retrospect, I suppose it isn’t that big a deal, and did not make that much difference. I was a well-known progressive anyway, so that my words that night were not a coming-out so much as pure defiance. And, I did OK after, not like I entered a monastery.

But group pressure and financial incentives are a driving force that will eventually destroy everything around us. It can be no other way. Anything that has the potential to produce private wealth, no matter its aesthetic value, will be destroyed by incessant pressure of unrelenting commerce. Roadless lands, wilderness, even national parks will come under pressure, and never a true word will be said about the reason for their destruction – greed. All other supposed motives are window dressing.

The only thing that stands between assets of high non-monetary value and the Philistines of the world of commerce is government. So it should come as no surprise that “gubbmint” is a hated evil, one that industry despises. They will always despise government until they take complete ownership. They are very close to their goal.

16 thoughts on “Philistines

      1. “They will always despise government until they take complete ownership. They are very close to their goal.”

        How can you own anything if excessive rules and regs prevent you from doing anything on it or to it?


        1. Swede,

          You might want to reconsider the use of the word “anything.”

          One example: The USFS-USDA has built over 370,000 miles of road through our national forests, almost exclusively to access timber, ore, grazing and gas and oil. Each year promised maintenance and repair falls further behind, yet each year more new roads are built on every unit in the system.


          1. When you cut monies from the forest service by disallowing logging you reduce the ability to maintain roads.

            “Logging used to give us an incredible amount of money to build and maintain roads,” Yoshina said. “But now it’s down to 5 percent of what it once was.”


          2. Oddly, yes, that is the origin of the term, but in modern usage does not refer to the people you hate but rather to uncultured people who do not appreciate the finer things in life.

            NOUN – a person who is lacking in or hostile or smugly indifferent to cultural values, intellectual pursuits, aesthetic refinement, etc., or is contentedly commonplace in ideas and tastes.


          3. Yoshina is not being truthful, or is ignorant of the “capital-investment road fund” that built most of the “arterial” roads. As with most of the easy-to-access, “good” timber, that fund is gone. Congress could no longer justifiy that cost to access “unsuitable” lands for “timber-mining.”

            Purchaser road credits now pay for below-cost operations and maintenance, but only if coupled with a new sale. The maintenance deficit grows, and so does the sediment pollution as old, neglected culverts fail and entire hillsides slump into headwater tributaries. Those costs are huge, but never calculated. Logging public lands has never fully paid for costs of production. There are several GAO reports, which I know you will not read, which bear this out.


          4. 95% decrease is a big hit to any budget. But I’ll play along. How many hillsides slump, sediment pollute, culverts fail and costs skyrocket when forest fires roar thru vast acreages of overly mature and dying timber?


          5. Swede, you are a typing testament to the power of propaganda.

            Earth to Swede;
            No forest fires = no forests.

            Forest fires are good for the forests. Go check out The Yellowstone and learn a thing or two. Your ignorance is not bliss for the rest of the humans around you.


          6. Lets assume that forrest fire do none of the above, sediment slumping, fish and streams dying, etc. Forest fires alone in the continental US and Alaska release 44 metric tons of mercury into the atmosphere annually.


          7. Forest fires save the forest from too many green trees. Think balance. And yes there is a cycle of life and death in forests, like everywhere else on Earth. Fighting nature with bigger and bigger government and higher taxes is a fool’s errand, and you’re no fool, right? Embrace the miracles of nature.


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