It's been five years now since the first reports about the Bakken, and still one wonders if people "get" the significance of it all. What it means to everyone in Yellowstone County. What it means for our country.
The Bakken spells "opportunity" unlike anything in recent memory, as far as Montana is concerned. All of us, no matter what kind of business we are involved in, will benefit from the billions and billions of dollars being invested, right now – not ten years from now—but right now in 2012, just a few hundred miles down the road.
This is huge. It is epic. And, the only thing that stands in the way is us.
Billions and billions of dollars (not millions but billions) are being invested, which require no matching funds, no applications, no lobbying, no new taxes, and no complicated public programs. This is private investment on private property creating energy, jobs, wealth and opportunity for future generations, and all we have to do for it to happen is to get out of the way — and stay out of the way.
We have the resource. We have the technology. We have the manpower. We have the capital needed to develop the most efficient and cleanest fuel, economically available for human beings, at this point in time – gas and oil.
And, it is right here, quite literally, in our own back yard, in potential supplies that surpass any other in the world. It is energy independence — some say for as much as 100 years, others say 200 years. What more could we ask for?
It is economic development, national security and, yes, it is environmentally friendly, if we but look at the full picture.
Every other kind of energy costs more. That means it is less efficient. By the very definition of "efficient" that means it generates a greater "carbon footprint." If one understands that from a utilitarian stand point, the cost of something reflects the amount of total energy required for its production, then one has to understand that all alternative "green" energies, by the very fact that they are more expensive, says that they are less "green" than gas and oil. The green alternatives – every one of them – generate a larger "carbon footprint" to produce and use, than gas and oil. It's as simple as that.
Maybe someday – undoubtedly, someday – we will have better options, but those options or innovations will not come unless they are built upon a realistic and sound economic base. We cannot short circuit the process or pretend them into reality, with subsidies or political mandates. For those future innovations to be practical and, hence, enduring, they must emerge from a sound market.
So goes the development of the infrastructure needed to advance the Bakken development. Building pipelines is the most cost-effective means – hence the most economically and environmentally sound way of getting this energy to market. It's absolutely insane to block the development of such tried-and-true technology as pipelines. Without pipelines the transport of this fuel is pushed onto the highways, roadways and railroads, across our lands, over our rivers, and through our communities, at far, far greater risks and costs.
The calculations of abandoning pipelines should include the additional costs, fuel usage and environmental hazards of the alternatives. It takes but the most cursory look, at what happens without pipelines, to know the folly of interfering with this market-driven solution of getting oil and gas to consumers.
And, the spinoff of what's happening in the Bakken!!!
Not only does it bolster the prospects for our retail and service sector businesses, but it poses the potential of redeveloping and recreating much of the manufacturing base we have lost over the past few decades to foreign shores.
What's happening in the Bakken demands the production of equipment, materials, parts, gidgets and gadgets of things most people don't even know about. Some are new things, being invented and produced for the first time, others are things that are simply needed immediately, and to custom specifications, most easily met locally. This means more opportunity. It means more private sector entrepreneurial activity in manufacturing, another basic industry that fuels the growth of secondary businesses, service industries and professions. More basic industries, which also mean more tax revenues for education and government.
It means more billions of dollars of investment with nothing required except for a political environment that doesn't block it, and allows it to happen.
None of this is pie-in-the-sky visionary thinking. It is happening at this very moment. The investors and entrepreneurs are banging at our doors, right now. Many have already opened shop in Billings and other surrounding communities. The only question is, are we going to open the doors or continue to attempt to bar them shut?
Look around folks, the market is trying to overcome the recession, if we but let it happen. Our future is emerging before our very eyes, if we but open them to see.
The Big Sky Business Journal
P.O. Box 3262
Billings, MT 59103