Spills in the state and a ‘State’ of laughter

Sometimes, you just have to rant. Every once in a while, as Peter Griffin once so eloquently said, there are aspects of life that tend to “grind my gears.” Here are a few of them that popped up last week:

— Here a spill, there a spill: How many oil and saltwater spills and pipeline ruptures does it take to make people realize there aren’t enough safeguards in place?

This past week, our pages were filled with news about energy-related spills, including the news that a recent saltwater spill in Williams County was North Dakota’s biggest of its kind during the current oil boom. There’s still no certainty whether or not the saltwater reached the Missouri River, but it affected at least two creeks that are its tributaries.

The worst of all the spills, however, came last weekend, when an oil pipeline ruptured and leaked 42,000 gallons of Bakken crude into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Mont., causing the city to deem its drinking water unsafe for several days.

Again, this was Bakken oil, folks. This could very well have happened at Lake Sakakawea — the drinking water source for nearly all of southwest North Dakota — which already has pipelines running beneath it and more in the works.

Here’s to hoping our state leaders learn from these two spills — and the other little ones that happen seemingly every day in western North Dakota — and use them as examples of why enforcing strict rules on the transportation of crude oil and saltwater, and leveling hard fines on those who screw it up, won’t kill the state’s energy industry.

— State of the Comedy Club: Boy, can President Obama crow when there isn’t all that much to crow about! He stood in front of the nation last Tuesday and, as some of the pundits believe, “dropped the mic,” on Republicans with his quip about winning two elections.

But that’s about all the speech was. Lots of quips, a few laughs, some great soundbites for his mixtape and promises that will be hard — if not impossible — to live up to a Republican Congress about as willing to work with the president as he is with them.

Meanwhile, terrorism is rising abroad, the one industry that managed to push the U.S. through a recession — energy — is entering a major slowdown, and the real unemployment rate is hovering around 11 percent and rising, according to figures by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But it’s all good, as long as everyone is laughing and gets free stuff, including …

— Free community college: Now, I’ll never say community college is a bad thing. A lot of people in this country have improved their lives simply by getting a two-year degree. Others have used it as a jumping-off point to great things.

Yet perhaps the greatest aspect of earning that degree is understanding that it didn’t come free. Unless you were very smart and had lots of scholarships. If so, then kudos, because you did the work to earn that free ride.

Now, however, the Obama administration has a plan to give out (mostly) free rides to anyone who wants them.

Under Obama’s proposed plan to offer free community college tuition to qualified students, the government would spend $60 billion a year — a number that would undoubtedly rise in order to make the plan feasible when half the college-age kids in America decide to leech off the system — to pay 75 percent of the average annual cost of a student’s two-year college education with the participating states mandated to cover the rest. The student would have to maintain a 2.5 GPA, but could be a part-time student and still qualify for free tuition.

Many of us with any type of post-secondary education — whether you went to a four-year college, a tech school or hair design school — understand and appreciate the real-world education you get after your days at a higher learning institution are complete and you have to learn how to balance a personal budget in order to pay back student loans.
Unfortunately, that attitude seems lost on many our leaders these days.


Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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