Windows on the World of Raymond Plank

Founder, Apache Corp

Vol. 2011 No. 7





October 20th on the day of the second 2011 World Series game in which Texas evened the series with St. Louis, I had more on my plate than baseball.  My purpose is to identify other components of the day and wrap them together in the hope our government will do other than flush our country down the toilet bowl, ineffectively throwing trillions of dollars away, reaping a financial disaster versus bootstrapping to sanity, jobs, and survival.


Background:  North Dakota’s Bakken Shale follows on the heels of technological advance being utilized long enough to demonstrate the potential for U.S. energy independence.  North Dakota is exemplary of what can be done within another dozen productive states to assure financial solvency both in the U.S. and Canada’s British Columbia and provide a hundred or more years of energy independence during which alternative energies should also be in place to fall in line towards a greener world.  North Dakota has already lowered its state income tax, reduced property and real estate tax, and has no debt on its balance sheet; a splendid example of what can be done in contrast to economic malaise. 


On the boob tube, I watched interviews October 20th with two California families, one of whom decided to stay in California where schools and public services are in freefall, the other of whom accepted North Dakota employment over the internet and is “following the money” to higher paid work and a stronger environment for bringing up their children. 


In conversation with close personal friends in both North & South Dakota, North Dakota business is booming while across the border in Sioux Falls my friend’s small business is weekly setting new year-to-year lows.  They’re fortunate that ND oil royalty income is helping to bridge the gap.  My friends first noted on the 20th the 210 pages of EPA tripe that ND operators are now saying could cause the demise of the strong move toward domestic energy independence represented by the Bakken and similar plays across America.  These proposed regulations will strip the gears and throw the country into further reverse.  North Dakota has already moved into 5th position as one of the top oil-producing states in the United States behind Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and California, and is predicted to pass up the latter with a further 200,000 barrel increase in the next 2 years.   Instead of killing Cock Robins it may be time to blow the exuberant feathers off the EPA, a predator bird swooping down on the vast majority of Americans who are wanting to work rather than joining the growing American food stamp constituency now at the 30% benchmark.


Along with energy, smaller non-publicly owned businesses in the U.S. are reported to provide 50% of the U.S. job count.  Here, additional proposed EPA compliance tripe will cause further contraction of jobs.


Also on October 20th, a book came from the Harvard Kennedy School’s very able and recognized professor, William Hogan, who is the Raymond Plank Professor of Global Energy Policy.   It is entitled “The Crisis in Energy Policy,” written by John M. Deutch, Institute Professor of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whom like Bill Hogan, I have followed and respected for many years.  Published by the Harvard University Press; the inside cover speaks as follows:


“Our future depends on what we do about energy.  This stark fact, clear since the oil embargo of the 1970s, has been hammered home through crisis after crisis – and yet our government has failed to come up with a coherent energy policy.  John Deutch, with his extraordinary mix of technical, scholarly, corporate, and governmental expertise in the realm of energy, is uniquely qualified to explain what has stood in the way of progress on this most pressing issue.  His book is at once an eye-opening history of the muddled practices that have passed for energy policy over the past thirty years, and a cogent account of what we can and should learn from so many breakdowns of strategy and execution. 


Three goals drive any comprehensive energy policy: develop an effective approach to climate change; transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy technologies; and increase the efficiency of energy use to reduce dependence on imported oil.  Why has every effort in this direction eventually fallen short?  Deutch identifies the sources of this failure in our popular but unrealistic goals, our competing domestic and international agendas, and our poor analysis in planning, policymaking, and administering government programs.  Most significantly, The Crisis in Energy Policy clarifies the need to link domestic and global considerations, as well as the critical importance of integrating technical, economic, and political factors.  Written for experts and citizens alike, this book will strengthen the hand of anyone concerned about the future of energy policy.”


Further on October 20th, following the World Series game, I stopped channel browsing on CSpan 2, Senate proceedings and voting on the budget for the fiscal year beginning in October.  I was not amused that some of the conservative senators were joining their leftists Democrat counterparts in speaking out for their “pet earmarks,” as did two Republican Senators from Alabama and Louisiana.  Had you observed the entire program which included three role call votes, plus numerous votes of “tie” (or no position) our conclusions on “gridlocked democracy” would likely prevail.


On October 21st both Fox News and ABC broke the following:


It’s bad enough that nearly a billion dollars in the current printed money era went to enable unoccupied G.M. to reopen a 3500 person plant to work on an electric sports model vehicle.  Of the billion dollar allocation, a significant portion went to a Finland outfit for research and production of very attractive prototypes as the Fox News and ABC stated.  To me it is amusing that former VP Al Gore and present VP Joe Biden have their hoof marks on the loan. 


With respect to the U.S. component, wouldn’t it be great if one of the international accounting firms engaged in a fraud audit, preferably pro bono, to discover whether the two VPs had engaged in proper conduct.  Fat chance! 


On the inside door of my Ucross office is a banner, made in China (of course) which reads:  “Courage, not the absence of fear or despair but the strength to conquer them.”  I fear for the economic future of the U.S. and to the extent our impact be global, for those whom the U.S. impacts – everyone.


I fear that wrong headedness domestically and around our round earth finds us on a very slippery slope that may soon become an avalanche. 


What to do about it? 


In a recent conversation with Steve Farris, my successor at Apache, we are like-minded as to the need for massive individual participation on the part of caring Americans through all forms of involvement and communication.  Beyond oil companies there are several million royalty owners (in positions like my Dakota friends), there are thousands of American businesses and their good people in the energy service and supply business to take action which is at the highest level of representation of self and the ideals of America on which Democracy is predicated. 


We can make a difference by allocating personal time, effort, and passion to communicating with the “log jammed” Congress and either the confused or opposed President of the United States.  The vehicle: individual communication written and/or spoken. 


Getting out to vote and expressing our views at the ballot box is vital if we want to make a contribution to the survival and viability of our country.  Filling a box or pulling a handle need be accompanied by active personal involvement.  


What a great opportunity for us to get out of the stands and onto the field of our own “World Series” in which victory holds the absolute key to America’s future.