Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Idle Rambling on the Bakken -- Chaos Is Self-Organizing


March 16, 2012: incredibly good post from "Bismarck anonymous" down below regarding recent action by state legislature to increase bonds on oil drillers for waste pits. I don't believe I posted that story (I can't remember for sure); for reasons I won't go into (pros/cons) I think I decided not to post it. But it showed up anyway via the comment below: here's the link. I agree with the writer: overkill by the legislature. Meanwhile wind towers given pass to kill whooping cranes, golden eagles. I suppose for folks who think the NDIC is too pro-oil and not sensitive enough to the environment, this is the "check and balance." Anyway, regardless of which side you are on with regard to this issue, incredibly good comment. I agree with the writer. Thank you.

Original Post

Regular readers know this: one of my favorite lines is "chaos is self-organizing."

I grew up with that quote, heard it so long ago I can't remember where I first heard it or from whom I heard it. I do have an idea who first said that to me.

The quote came up again tonight in one of my replies. A quick google search resulted in this:

The author of that article: Toby Tetenbaum. Read a bit more here

I don't know anything about that site than what I see when I get there. I don't know the folks behind that website, their mission statement, their agenda, but a quick scan through the single page was very interesting. It sounded like something written in the last year or two. And then I saw that it was published in 1998.

Chaos is self organizing. That's the good news for those working in the Bakken.


  1. Seems to me that we can connect the dots between a number of the articles posted today;

    I.E. Chaos is self organizing applies to the article of apartment shortage in Dickenson. Forget government help - it only breeds havoc in the long term,
    - - such as the failed slum government regulated and/or subsized housing units found in most major US cities, which is a hint of any government regulation to ease the Dickinson housing shortage;
    - - such as the inadequate and unreliable government subsidized wind farms and the failed solar panel companies;
    - - such as the creation of an unintended shortage of heavy crude after Obama canceled Keystone.

    1. Government involvement is critical. If I have said that government is not critical I have mispoken but I don't think I've said that.

      With regard to the Bakken, local government did not have the necessary tools to deal with such unprecedented growth.

      I am not a fan of the federal government becoming involved in state issues.

      The state government is best suited for overseeing the Bakken boom, and in the big scheme of things seems to have a better handle on the Bakken boom than either the local government or the federal government.

    2. Bismarck anonymousMarch 16, 2012 at 12:21 PM

      "Chaos often breeds life, When order breeds havoc.

      Another example of order (potentially) stifling life - creating havoc, was reported in today's Bismarck Tribune under the headline of "New ND oil rules could curb drilling". (did not post the link since to do so would take serveral lines) reporting on rules adopted by the ND Legislature's Administrative Rules Committee, to take effect April 1.

      Will require disclosure of fracking fluid composition, require increased bonding dollar amounts on wells, and perhaps the biggest change is to bar dumping of oil drilling wastes into open pits.

      My personal fear is that such rules represent the use of "sledgehammer" to kill a fly, when an ordinary "fly swatter" should have been used. But I do know for a lifetime in ND, that state regulator's by nature do not like rules that will require them to excercise judgement - instead they like rules that apply accross the board - requiring little or no excercise in judgement.

      The head of industry group, ND Petroleum council estimates that this could increase cost of drilling a well by $400,000. Whether that is onerous enough to impact the level of drilling activity remains to be seen. Out of $10 million per well, perhaps not such a big deal. But when one considers all the wells drilled in a year, the cumulative cost seems to way out of proportion to any damage documented in prior years.

      Futhermore, the regulators have gotten all worked up over a few birds being killed when they landed in open pits, none of which were rare birds, and it was only a few common birds out of millions that pass through ND. By contrast, it is out of proportion to the wind towers which have been documented as killing many rare eagles, yet such wind towers are not being subjected to the same scrutiny as are open oil points.

      Also, it is out of proportion when one considers that the 2010/2011 was a record setting winter. So why should rules be based on what happens in a winter that is likely to not repeat for a very long time - it certainly has not happened this winter.

      Futher more, it was reported that only 30 pits had problems last spring. Again, this is a smaller portion of all pits constructed in a year. The companies that were deemed to be offenders have been fined. For the legislataive committee to take this approach is like a school teacher that disciplines the whole classroom, when only one or two students have misbehaved.

  2. Bruce, there is talk on the Twin City Rail group over at yahoo about suspending Amtrak rail service from St.Paul (Midway) to Minot. This is what was written on March 8th:

    - I had coffee yesterday with one of the guys I used to work with at Amtrak. He tells me they are preparing to suspend service soon between St Paul and Minot for a major BNSF upgrade to the Devils Lakes sub to accomodate anticipated increasing traffic levels from western North Dakota oil fields. Apparently the KO sub is at or near capacity so it sounds like reroutes aren't going to happen.

    He also tells me the plan is for #7 to pull right into Midway and tie up, cab a crew from St Cloud St Paul to wye the train and then go back to St Cloud (nice gig if it happens). Word is that last year, there was some backlash for taking the extra time backing the train in from the 3rd short on the west leg of the wye and delaying passengers. -

    Better get your train trip in now.

    1. I look forward to my next Amtrak tour.

      One might think this is typical of a quasi-governmental agency to shut down service just when it's most needed.

      But in this case, Amtrak is at the mercy of the owners of the track. Amtrak only rents time on the tracks. Having said that, you know BNSF is not going to shut down all freight trains between Minot and Minneapolis. Amtrak is a pain for the freight trains to deal with -- this is nothing against BNSF, Union Pacific, etc., it's just a fact. Amtrak is a thorn in their side and they wouldn't miss Amtrak if it went away.

      I know there is no connection but maybe: with the Keystone XL dead, the railroads know they will have to take up the slack. Amtrak is messing with their efficiency. Wouldn't it be interesting to read some months down the road that killing the Keystone played at least a part in killing Amtrak service in North Dakota.

      The Amtrak bean counters may not mind. On the northern tier, Amtrak makes its money on tourists between Seattle/Portland and the Rocky Mountains in the west, and the Boston/New York to Chicago, maybe Minneapolis, portion in the east.