The Myopic Tyranny of Big Oil

by Justin Robbins

By now, you may have still not heard of the Standing Rock protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which hopes to transfer oil produced in the Bakken oil fields to Illinois and beyond. Without speculating on motive, I’ll just say it hasn’t gotten a lot of national media attention.

There’s a good summary of the situation here; however, the issue is not terribly complicated. A Texas-based company, Energy Transfer Partnerships, through their subsidiary Dakota Access, LLC, has obtained permission to build a 1,168 mile pipeline from northwest North Dakota, to southern Illinois. It is a $3.6 billion project expected to pump 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude per day. The pipeline is slated to cross under the Missouri river just north (upstream) of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation; home to about 8,200 Lakota, Yanktonai and Dakota Indians. The Missouri River serves as the primary water source for the reservation.

The selling points of the pipeline are nothing new. It is argued the pipeline will create jobs; it will keep domestic gas prices low; and that pipelines are safer than rail or truck transport of oil. Consequently, any perceived threat to the environment in general, or the water supply on the reservation specifically, are acceptable collateral risks…if you’re an oil company.

We are not. Despite being fully enmeshed in a petroleum based economy, I would argue the collateral risks associated with continuing, unchecked, on this path is not only unsustainable for our country, but for our planet.

What’s really happening at the Standing Rock protest is an effort by Native Americans not just to protect the water supply of one reservation, but to sound a clarion call to stop setting up the dominos of environmental catastrophe. I know…another holier-than-thou, tree-hugging essay, hypocritically typed out on a petroleum based keyboard telling you to be the change you want to see.

So, don’t take my word for it. Take Exxon’s. In 1978, Exxon’s own researchers told its executives, “present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.” 1978. That was 33 years before the 2011 Silvertip Pipeline rupture sent 63,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River. It was 37 years before their Bridger Pipeline rupture sent another 50,000 gallons into the Yellowstone during the warmest year yet on record; 2015.

imageThere are difficult choices to be made. Those, like Dakota Access, who would hire private thugs with attack dogs to protect their taxpayer subsidized speculation and profiteering have loudly declared themselves ill-suited to consider the needs of the many. America’s First People, standing once more against the myopic tyranny of a group insisting that its destiny is manifest, deserve our support. They are illustrating not just what can or should be done, but what must be done. Within their mythology, and their words and actions can be found the courage to challenge our cult of convenience; and to protect our pale blue dot for the Standing Rock tribes, and for everyone else.

You can sign the petition to stop pipeline construction here.  You can donate to support the protesters here.  Sleep well.


14 Comments on "The Myopic Tyranny of Big Oil"

  1. Thanks, Justin. I just watched Democracy Now, which had decent coverage of this atrocity. You mentioned that the multi-billion dollar project is tax payer supported. This may be true, but most of the financing came from 30+ banks including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and UBS. They should be boycotted.

  2. IDLE NO MORE, after Five Hundred years!

  3. See also: Standing Rock Solidarity Undermined by History of Partisan Divide and Conquer

    • More bullshit in that link than at a Montana feedlot. I’ll start with a quote from David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, that didn’t make it into the linked post: “Perhaps only in North Dakota, where oil tycoons wine and dine elected officials, and where the governor, Jack Dalrymple (R), serves as an adviser to the Trump campaign, would state and county governments act as the armed enforcement for corporate interests.”
      But according to the link. Democrats are responsible for the fiasco unfolding at Standing Rock. Then the post gets confusing: environmental “collaborators” or also becoming “extremists” and it’s all due to Democratic “divide and conquer” techniques. It’s the standard nihilism that emanates from that site: Bernie supporters are toast, Hillary is as bad as Trump, and Tester, Juneau and Bullock are whores.

  4. It is said that in the Thirties and Forties, the Forest Service used to round up bums and drunks hanging out at local bars and conscript them into fighting forest fires with no training often to a bad result. This makes me think of the thugs/slugs that were hired as “Security”. Does it seem like the only criteria for hiring on was stupidity, sadism and a vicious dog? I don’t know. You tell me. The laws in Montana regarding vicious dogs are such that those frisky canines might be given the needle.

  5. IDLE NO MORE…Tribes have HAD ENOUGH OF ALL THE CRAP WE’VE HAD TO SWALLOW FROM CORPORATE SCAM AND POLLUTERS! All Americans should THANK the Tribes for being Brave, courageous!

  6. Just for future accuracy, the Sioux Nation consists of the Dakota, the Lakota and the Nakota tribes.

    Interesting article.


  7. Thanks for the article, because I hadn’t heard. Without defending big oil, and certainly not heavy handed security, I understand that this company has obtained some sort of legal permission to explore/drill for oil, and build a pipeline. That makes for an uphill battle for anyone who opposes any part of the permitting decision. It sounds like a major objection of the tribes is to the pipeline underneath the Missouri River. I’ve never understood why pipelines are placed underneath rivers. I would think that placing pipelines on specially constructed bridges above rivers would make them easier to maintain and repair as well as detect potential leaks. Could someone enlighten me?

    • I’ve had the same thoughts. An above the water crossing does expose the pipeline to other hazards, including making vandalism easier. How thick would the pipe need to be to stop a bullet from a big game rifle?

  8. What’s not mentioned enough is that there was an alternate route that would have avoided these sacred sites-but it went right through Bismarck, where all the white people live. They saw the video of California pipelines taking out neighborhoods, why take that risk when the Rez is there? At the risk of being repetitively redundant I have to remind every one-Corporations may not be people but they can still be Tyrants.

  9. It just occurred to me, wan’t this an Act of War on sovereign nations? If Mexican Drug Cartels were destroying Lutheran graveyards in Kansas City the Trumpsters would be raising Holy hell and demanding we invade Cozumel! Vamanous atras Aztlan! We need to move on into a New World and end the corporation domination damnation of Oligarchy.

  10. Mr. Robbins’ article paints a picture of a conflict between two major needs, energy and water. The article and the comments are sympathetic to the tribes’ position. That doesn’t often win against establishment paradigms. If you recall the recent BP disaster in the Gulf, it’s not hard to imagine that a big event could occur to a pipeline underneath the Missouri. That could affect things for a long way downriver. So, do these pipelines have big emergency shutoff valves on the oil side of the river in case of a leak? Do these pipelines have devices to detect such leaks immediately? I’m way deficient in pipeline facts.

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