Wednesday Roundup: Listening to the Debate

Nebraska plantsman Harlan Hamernik has died • We've known for years that coal production would be declining • Borlaug sculpture to grace U.S. Capitol

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We watched last night’s Presidential debate with Flair pen ready to take note on mention of anything rural. 

We didn’t hear much.

There was an extended discussion of energy. Both candidates promised more drilling and mining. (See stories below on how this is unlikely in the East.) Mitt Romney criticized the Obama administration for cutting oil and gas production on federal lands. President Obama said that wasn’t true. Here is how the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin scores this exchange:

Contrary to President Obama’s assertions, Romney’s telling the truth when he says, “Production of oil on public land is down 14 percent and production of gas on public land is down 9 percent.”

That’s because energy production on federal lands is down compared to 2010, according to the Energy Information Administration. But it is still higher than where production stood under President George W. Bush. Compared to the last three years of the previous administration, according to EIA, there have been 241 million more barrels of oil produced from public lands in Obama’s first three years.

Romney also criticized Obama for holding up a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Obama did not respond, although he could have said he was only following the lead of the Republican Nebraska legislature and the Republican Nebraska governor who wanted the pipeline routed away from sensitive lands.

More to the point, there was no talk of the people or communities where all this energy will be produced. (Check out the story just below on overwhelmed medical facilities in North Dakota.)

As for rural, that was it, folks. If we missed something, please leave a comment.

Pipeline Opposition…in Texas — The first and strongest opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline were Nebraska ranchers. Now TransCanada is finding resistance to its Canada-to-Gulf Coast pipeline farther south. 

Landowners in Texas are filing dozens of lawsuits aimed at slowing or stopping the pipeline that will transport tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Activists have chained themselves to equipment. Actress Daryl Hannah was arrested; eight others were jailed Monday in protests.

“We’ve fought wars for it. We stood our ground at the Alamo for it. There’s a lot of reasons that Texans are very proud of their land and proud when you own land that you are the master of that land and you control that land,” said Julia Trigg Crawford, who is fighting the condemnation of a parcel of her family’s 650-acre Red’Arc Farm in Sumner, about 115 miles northeast of Dallas.

What appears to tick off landowners the most is TransCanada’s liberal use of condemnation powers to take land.

Drilling Slowdown? — Halliburton reports that the natural gas rig count on land in North America dropped by 18 percent in the quarter as companies slowed production. Natural gas prices were down 29 percent from last year as supplies remained high. 

Norman Borlaug in U.S. Capitol — Benjamin Victor, a South Dakota artist, will create a sculpture of Iowan Norman Borlaug for the U.S. Capitol. Borlaug is the father of the “Green Revolution.” 

Borlaug’s work developing high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties led to a massive increase in food production — and for him the Nobel Peace Prize. Borlaug was a native of Iowa who died in 2009. See a picture of the sculpture above. 

Harlan Hamernik Has Died — Nebraska plantsman Harlan Hamernik has died. The 76-year-old founder of Bluebird Nursery in Clarkson, Nebraska, died Monday in an explosion and fire at his home. 

A cause of the explosion hasn’t been determined. Here is Allen Bush’s article about Harlan in the Daily Yonder. 

Here is Joe Duggan’s description of Hamernik in the Omaha World-Herald:

Hamernik combined a talent for business and a boundless zeal for plants to build one of the nation’s leading nurseries. 

The impact of his death was felt far beyond his hometown of Clarkson.

More than a successful businessman, Hamernik was a true champion of plant life native to the Great Plains, who developed untold numbers of cultivars now commonly grown across the country, said Panayoti Kelaidis, senior curator at the Denver Botanical Garden. The garden’s collection includes about 600 plants developed by Bluebird Nursery.

“He was one of the two or three best in the United States, ever,” Kelaidis said Tuesday. “Nebraska will never have a better ambassador.”

Shifting Corn Belt — Kansas hasn’t moved, but it may now be too far south to be good for corn, Bloomberg reports

As the climate shifts, so do ag investments. Farmers in Kansas are planning to grow less corn and companies like Cargill are investing farther north in anticipation of increased grain production…in Canada.

Coal ProductionKen Ward Jr. reminds us that we have known — or should have known — for years that U.S. coal production in Appalachia was on its way down. 

Both candidates in last night’s debate talked about increasing coal production. But in the eastern fields, that’s unlikely, Ward writes:

There’s just one problem: Analysts agree that much of the best coal in Southern West Virginia has already been mined. Thinner and lower quality seams are left, meaning production and productivity are dropping. Tough competition from inexpensive natural gas and other coal basins makes matters worse. New environmental restrictions only add to coal’s problems, and production is headed down regardless of air or water pollution restrictions.

Overall, production from Central Appalachia — meaning mostly Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky — is projected to be cut in half by the end of this decade, according to the latest U.S. Department of Energy forecasts.

Analysts have been warning about the region’s ongoing coal decline – and the fact that West Virginia’s coal would someday run out — for years. A century ago, then-Gov. Henry Hatfield warned, “Our great storehouse of natural resources, given to us by nature, is rapidly disappearing.”

More recently, a 1995 report by the U.S. Bureau of Mines cautioned that, based on current production levels and known reserves, Boone County “will be able to sustain mining activities for no more than 20 years.”

Election Comes Down to Coal — David Roberts, in Foreign Policy, says the 2012 election could come down to one thing: coal. 

 

 

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