Showing posts with label ethanol. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ethanol. Show all posts

Monday, April 28, 2008

Living on the Death Star

Hey, Louisiana, how are you doing?

Fading fast, you say?

Yeah, I know how that goes. See, I'm from Omaha (by God) Nebraska, and we're the folks who are killing your ass. Not to mention the rest of you, too.

WE'RE THE FOLKS who brought you coastal erosion. And the Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico, which has crippled your sport- and commercial-fishing industries.

And that little unpleasantness in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina? That was us, too.

We may look like a bunch of corn-fed hicks and earnest upper-Midwestern professionals right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, but that's just to disguise who we really are. To pull the wool over the eyes of the rustic likes of your own backward-ass selves.

But I'll let you in on a secret. I can do this because, frankly, you can't act on your newly acquired knowledge. You're economically stunted, abnormally poorly educated, unusually poverty-stricken and unhealthy as all get-out.

We can piss on your erstwhile largest city, and we can crap on your seafood industry with the tons and tons of chemical fertilizers we dump into the watershed to grow more corn that will go not into hungry people's stomachs but, instead, into more ethanol that will go into our SUVs' gas tanks.

Who are we? We are the Death Star.

Bye, suckas.

WE NORMALLY AREN'T so forthright about any of this. It's bad for bidness. But since your John M. Barry unfortunately
divulged our proprietary information on the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times, secrecy doesn't matter anymore.

And, as I noted, what are you bunch of dumb rednecks and coonasses going to do about it, anyway?

See, here's how it works, in a nutshell, as explained by that Barry fella:

To understand the link between the High Plains and Louisiana, one has to understand the Mississippi River system -- which stretches from New York to Idaho and drains 31 states -- and the sediment load the system carries. This sediment load was so great that it changed the nation's geography. Sixty million years ago, the ocean reached north to Cape Girardeau, Mo., but as the sea level fell, the river dropped enough mud into what geologists call the Mississippi Embayment to create all the land from Cape Girardeau to the sea, a total of 35,000 square miles in seven states.

That land-building process created Louisiana's coast, along with barrier islands that provided a buffer protecting populated areas in Louisiana and part of Mississippi's coast.

Human engineering has reversed that process, causing the loss of roughly 2,000 square miles of land since World War II. If this buffer -- equivalent to the state of Delaware -- had not been destroyed, New Orleans would need little other hurricane protection.

Numerous man-made actions have caused the land loss, but the most important, yet least recognized, may be the decline of sediment in the river. Dams built to provide electricity, irrigation and flood protection in the Upper Midwest and High Plains are largely responsible for the decline; sediment level is now only 30% to 40% of the natural amount. A particular problem has been a series of dams on the upper Missouri River beginning above Bismarck, N.D., and ending above Yankton, S.D. Historically, roughly half of the total sediment load in the Mississippi River came from the upper Missouri, but the dams trapped that sediment upstream. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, since the dams' construction in the 1950s, "the discharge of sediment from the upper Missouri River basin virtually was stopped."

Without this sediment, Louisiana began losing land. Other contributors to the land loss include energy production. About 30% of the nation's domestic oil and gas production comes from Louisiana, which has benefited the entire country. But the industry dredged 10,000 miles of canals through Louisiana's marsh, bringing in saltwater, which killed it. Another factor is the manipulation of sediment for shipping; this too has benefited the national economy by turning cities such as Tulsa and Pittsburgh into ports with direct access to the ocean.
IN SHORT, because of the Missouri River dams, we get cheap electricity and Omaha doesn't have to worry about catastrophic floods on the Not-So-Muddy-Anymore Mo . . . like the one we oh-so-narrowly staved off in 1952 with miles of sandbags and the blood, sweat and tears of thousands. Likewise, we get water for irrigation to grow the corn that goes in our gas tanks and to help wash that fertilizer down the watershed to the Gulf -- to kill your fish.

We also get great fishing and watersports on all those reservoirs up here, and lots of fine camping around them. Just check out the outdoors pages of our newspapers if you don't believe me. All in all, the damming of the Missouri River -- and its sediment flow -- has been a pretty good deal for us, which is why Congress authorized it during World War II.

SO . . . what has Louisiana gotten out of the deal? Besides screwed, that is.

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Sucks to be you. In, oh, so many ways.
Too bad, so sad. We're doing fine here on the Death Star, though. "Bobby JIN-dalllll . . . come to the Dark Side, Bobby Jindal!"

OK, I keed, I keed. Seriously, though . . . don't send us any of those hoardes of refugees running north when their towns start to go under the waves, one by one. We can't comprende their lingo, and they're just not that well suited for our info-tech economy, capiche?

We do like your colorful musicians and baseball fans, however. They're quaint and interesting, in an anthropological kind of way.

Well, it's late and I really must run. Every day is a busy day on the Death Star, and we're not even half done blowing your state to Kingdom Come. I can't say "See you later," because -- well -- we won't.

In that light, I'll just close by wishing you well wherever you end up -- so long as it's not here -- and will simply say . . . "So long, it's been good to know 'ya!"