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Friday, May 02, 2008

Support for Elk Point Refinery High in South Dakota

The Argus Leader today features a poll from the Dakota Wesleyan University McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service which found that 66 percent of South Dakotans support the TransCanada Pipeline and 69 percent support the proposed Hyperion refinery near Elk Point, South Dakota.

It's vital we increase our refining capacity. We haven't built a new refinery in over 30 years, and while improvements in efficiency have increased our output, we're squeezing everything we can out of our existing infrastructure...and need more badly.

The TransCanada oil pipeline can also help with our energy needs, and can help reduce our dependence on oil from volatile Middle East nations, though there are some sticky issues regarding land rights and eminent domain.

I spoke with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joel Dykstra when he was in Rapid City last week; Dykstra seeks the Republican nomination in June to challenge Democrat Senator Tim Johnson in the November election. One of the things we discussed was energy.

Dykstra spent many years in the oil and gas industry, both here in the United States and overseas, so he knows energy from the inside.

Dykstra told me there are no quick solutions to the energy needs we face, but we need more oil exploration and production in Alaska, the newly discovered tremendous reserves under North Dakota, and offshore. Senator Johnson has opposed solutions like drilling in ANWR.

While we need to eventually move away from hydrocarbons, Dykstra said, right now most of our infrastructure relies on it. He said he supports the proposed refinery at Elk Point.

Still, Dykstra says we should be pursuing greater use of nuclear power. Many nations like Great Britain have made extensive use of nuclear power, but unfortunately some Americans have fears about nuclear power based not in fact, but on old movies like The China Syndrome.

Though reliable solutions are still mostly somewhere down the road, Dykstra also believes we should be working more on renewable energy sources.

He spoke favorably of hydrogen fuel cells, but obstacles still exist; for instance, they don't last as long as we'd like yet, and there aren't sufficient refueling centers along our highways to make widespread use practical yet.

One thing we can't do is continue our head-in-the-sand status quo approach to energy. Congress has been sitting on their collective hands for years, refusing to deal positively with our energy needs.

Though there is plenty of oil left, it doesn't do us much good if we're too afraid to get it out of the ground and refine it into a usable material.

And while you can't drive very far across the English countryside without seeing a nuclear power plant, American nuclear energy exploitation remains stuck in the 1970s.

We can't continue the comfortable lifestyle we've created in America if we let ourselves be afraid to put our natural resources to responsible use. What's more, national defense is at stake if irresponsible energy policy leaves us scrambling for the means to power our military forces.


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