The Case for the LincolnXL Pipeline

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

When I think of Abraham Lincoln, my first thought is emancipationthe process of setting one free from legal, social, or political restrictions. In his day it meant ending the scourge of human enslavement.  And although Lincoln's primary challenge during his Presidency was preserving the Union, it's not often someone also thinks of the Lincoln Presidency as one that transformed American agriculture.  His background made him uniquely suited for the vision: he was well-versed in pioneer farming and rural life; he understood and participated in small town democracy.

Lincoln understood the power in educating his fellow man: in July of 1862 he wrote in to law the Morrill Land Grant Act, establishing our nation's land grant university system.  He understood the transformational nature of technology: from hand labor to horse-drawn power; from there to steam power.  He understood the need to unleash the full production capacity of American soil.  He understood that the best use of labor was for the opportunity for those laborers to become landowners, no longer the "mud sill" laborers, or slaves, that defined the current agricultural paradigm.  Thus, the Homestead Act of 1862.  Lincoln's Pacific Railroad Act opened up the western United States to trade and the delivery of goods.  It also provided for a telegraph line from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.  He identified the need for a permanent government agency to further the research and development of crops and livestock, so in that same year he established the United States Department of Agriculture and gave it Cabinet status.  He called it, "the peoples department"

Lincoln thought BIG.

At some risk of being taken out-of-context, it would be hard to argue that Lincoln's vision of an emancipated, educated citizenry has yet to come to full fruition.  Our struggles as a nation continue. Today, there are more African-Americans on probation, parole or in prison than there were slaves in 1850.  We are faced with a stagnant job market and woeful under-investment in educating our next generation.  A crumbling infrastructure and a climate in collapse.  A national economy addicted to petroleum – not unlike our addiction to slave labor in the days of Lincoln.  And a wealthy few who would fight to the bitter end, even war,  to preserve a business-as-usual scenario. 

Our challenges remain.  Today we're bombarded with a multi-million dollar ad campaign attempting to convince the American public that our national energy security will be found in a pipeline from Canada, the KeystoneXL.  The business-as-usual crowd is spending millions to keep our addiction to the illusion of cheap oil firmly intact.  That same crowd seemingly has no angst at the pillage of our nation's most precious resources to create immense wealth for a few.  And a growing belief by some that our bests days are behind us.

If we don't deal with the root of our nation's problems in a full-out embrace, like the struggle of a freed slave over 150 years ago, we'll find our nation generations from now still unable to free ourselves of the shackles of enslavement of economic and climate ruin.

Just what would a President Lincoln do today – assuming he had the benefits of a cooperative Congress?  Faced with the prospects of an encroaching pipeline from the north that would perpetuate our addiction to cheap resources, would he acquiesce in its establishment?  Or, would his vision of a rural America, capable of embracing technology and converting its perennial, infinite resources into liquid fuel while creating hundreds of thousands of American jobs win his support? 

Would he take a very different approach to the idea of the doubling the  Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a physical, underground reserve of raw, crude oil established under the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), primarily to counter a severe supply interruption? The initial threat, which prompted the law, was supply interruption as a result of Middle Eastern conflicts.  Today, our threats are different, and some would say more severe: extreme weather events.  Lincoln would likely propose the expansion as an above-ground, working reserve of widely distributed biofuels plants with standing reserves of fuel.  A network of plants incapable of being annihilated, in whole, by a single event.

We know how to do it.  We know we have the resources.  We know the threats.  And we know the opportunities.

All we need is the political will. 

A President Lincoln may well have declared war under these conditions. He would have erred to the side of emancipation.  Emancipation from a centralized energy model dependent upon extraction and imports.  Emancipation from an inevitable climate collapse.  He would have erred on the side of American ingenuity, American, global leadership and growing our economy in a way that was built to last.  He would have envisioned a LincolnXL Pipeline, extra-large in its vision for our future;  extra-large in its embrace of American ideals.  A virtual pipeline that gathers the best of our resources: human, natural, technological and political.  A virtual pipeline that delivers the kind of change necessary to address our global challenges, not a perpetuation "business-as-usual".  A virtual pipeline that values the ingenuity of America over sticky goo in the Boreal Forest. A virtual pipeline that can deliver the kind of rural renaissance we know is waiting in the wings. A virtual pipeline that gives us real national, economic and energy security.

By definition, Keystone stands for "locking the whole together".  In that case it is aptly named: it will lock our globe in to a death spiral of economic and climatic challenges we can ill afford. 

Let's say no to that vision.

Let's say yes to the LincolnXL Pipeline.

53 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Gray in Mountains says:

    gee, kind of a DARPA for non-defense stuff.

    • MichaelBowman says:

      Exactly…and we solve a lot of other challenges with it!

      • Duke Cox says:

        That would make a great speech, Michael….wink

        • MichaelBowman says:

          Should I practice it on Gertie?  She seems to be struggling in the "imagination" department this week….wink 

          • gertie97 says:

            I have plenty of imagination, but at least some of the nuts and bolts need to work. The country has the nuts down pat. The bolts need work.

            (If I could figure out how to put a grin icon here, I would do so.)

            • MichaelBowman says:

              I rarely poke fun of someone I don't know, Gertie…but I couldn't resist.  You seem to have a thick skin!

              • gertie97 says:

                It's fairly thick, as Duke can attest to.

                As for the nuts and bolts, I just finished an excellent book, Fighting for Common Ground'' by former Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a truly rational Republican. Among her proposals is to attempt to make Congress actually work again. Not just work as in results, but work as in work, like showing up.

                Her ideas: filibuster reform, a more open amendment process so people outside of leadership can play, eliminating so-called secret holds, passing no buget, no pay'' for Congress, doing biennial budgets, restoring the authorization process, working five days a week (what a concept!), establishing a bipartisan leadership committee and returning to the regular order of doing legislative business through committees.

                The crux of her book is that legislating is actual work. It is not grandstanding for the cameras and doing nothing all year except fundraising until there's a crisis, at which point leadership cobbles another CR and we repeat as necessary.

                I urge you to read it. Snowe also discusses campaign finance reform at length and fighting from the grassroots with interesting suggestions.

                I don't agree with all of her politics or prescriptions, but none of us fully agree with others unless were living in ideological bubbles. We need to break out.

                At the same time, though, assholes like Peter Boyles need to be called out when they're dickheads.


                • MichaelBowman says:

                  That "actually working" part is the one that sets me off.  As Olympia mentions, legislating is hard work.  There is half-of-one-half of Congress who has absolutely no interest in the work required to "legislate". 

  2. Duke Cox says:

    I could not agree more.

    The built in advantages to creating and using locally, or at least regionally,  produced power systems are immense.

    As you point out, Lincoln "understood the power in educating his fellow man". This sort of information and perspective is very important.

    • MichaelBowman says:

      Distributed energy networks are going to become an increasingly critical component of our nation's energy infrastructure.  Here's a great op-ed in today's Times and links to predicitions by Locklear, Donilon and Clapper regarding the future challenges of not only America, but the globe:

      Locklear’s not alone. Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, said much the same thing in April, speaking to an audience at Columbia’s new Center on Global Energy Policy. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told the Senate in March that “Extreme weather events (floods, droughts, heat waves) will increasingly disrupt food and energy markets…”

  3. DavidThi808 says:

    There's strong arguments that biofuels increase global warming and starve the poorI'd prefer to see local solar & wind where it makes sense plus (thorium) nuclear.

    And to do that right, we need the grid as locations will need to balance as sites are brought down for maintainence/problems or the environment reduces the solar/wind for a bit.

    • MichaelBowman says:

      Oh for God sakes…I'm a fan of nuclear.  That reactor that sits out there about three billion miles away.  It gives us the opportunity for PV, wind from the uneven heating of the earth's land and the miracle of photosynthesis – which gives us biomass, food, feed, etc.  This plan doesn't starve the poor.  It makes peoples lives better.  Kind of like the ACA wink

    • mamajama55 says:

      Anything in excess is harmful, most things in moderation are good.  Right now, for example, I need to go process some waste biomass for home heating (translation: saw up some tree trimmings to burn in my woodstove). If everyone in Pueblo used woodstoves, it would be turn the air gray. Pueblo's air actually used to be gray, when all the steel mills were operating, and everyone heated their homes with coal or wood furnaces.

      As far as nuclear, once we have a way to safely store or dispose or re-purpose the waste products, I'll be for it…until then, not so much.

      On the "starve the poor" thing, i think that Michael and many others have pretty well debunked that "food vs. fuel" argument, at least here in Colorado. We grow more corn than we can consume, and most of the biomass research is into waste products anyway.

      • MichaelBowman says:

        The recently-proposed nuclear plant in Pueblo went over big, didn't it?  If David had jumped to my most-common response – rooted in the mindset that somehow all of this biofuel will come corn – a fallacy both throroughly debunked and a resource already CAPPED under federal law – he might warm up to the fact that we have enough waste alone in this country to generate 40% of our liquid fuel needs.  Add in the adoption of engine efficiency technology [could reduce our consumption another 30%]  and a growing fleet of electric cars [powered by local wind, solar and hydro resources] and you can make the case we wouldn't need a single barrel of oil for our domestic use.  None of that is out of our reach.  In fact, it's right under our nose – it's for the most part federal law and an oil-friendly Congress that is the blockage.

        • Duke Cox says:


          Plan to go next week to the Capitol. Find a knowledgeable lobbyist to accompany you and identify the people you find spending the most time on the first floor…get back to me.smiley

        • DavidThi808 says:

          By product waste to biofuels I'm all in favor of. But not crops grown specifically for biofuels until they can show it does not raise food prices (which devastates the poor) and is not worse on carbon than alternatives.

          And I drive an electric car so I'm on board with that approach.

          • MichaelBowman says:

            We produce more calories per capita [globally] than at any other time in our history. Yet, we have obesity and chronic hunger both at record levels.  We don't have a calorie problem – we have a distribution problem, exasperated by the fact we have 2.5 billion people on this planet that live on less than $2/day.  

            There are millions of acres of marginal soil in the US that are entirely appropriate for the cultivation of energy crops.  Regarding corn, keep in mind that 98% of the corn grown in the US [almost 100 million acres this year] is not corn for human consumption – it's corn for livestock feed.  We can argue the merits of corn production itself – there is a wide range of opinions on that matter – but the same amount of acres would be grown today if we didn't produce a single barrel of ethanol

            I'm very excited about Cool Planet locating their headquarters in Colorado – the biochar component to this LCA is a gamechanger. 


      • notaskinnycook says:

        Is it really, MJ? Excellent! I've wondered for a while how much energy could be derived from corn husks and cobs, wheat chaff, rice hulls tree bark, etc. It never has made sense to me to make fuel out of food. 

        • mamajama55 says:

          I don't know if you meant MB instead of MJ- Bowman is the expert. But yes, he's convinced me. Check out the links and comments on his diary "Koch and a Christian".

          I was skeptical about the food vs fuel dilemma, too, but it turns out it's not a dilemma in this country. In some third world countries, which was the topic of the article David t808 posted, it is more of a tough choice.

          MB, I'll send you a bill for the free publicity.

          • MichaelBowman says:

            wink You're the best, MamaJ!

          • notaskinnycook says:

            Mamajama, I did mean you. This was the paragraph I picked up on in your post: "On the 'starve the poor' thing, i think that Michael and many others have pretty well debunked that 'food vs. fuel' argument, at least here in Colorado. We grow more corn than we can consume, and most of the biomass research is into waste products anyway." And I am thrilled if people figuring out how to make various kinds of "go juice" out of garbage.

  4. gertie97 says:

    Wonderful ideas. But assuming a cooperative Congress'' is a stretch.

  5. Duke Cox says:

    By the way…

    Wasn't it Lincoln who said, "I dream of a world where a chicken can cross the road without having its motives questioned"…?

    No…maybe that was Ike…

  6. MichaelBowman says:

    We need a different narrative about how we talk about "energy".  It analagous to "booze".  If I promoted a form of energy that isn't rooted in the extraction from the Earth's core, I'm labeled with suspicion – and in some circles, "un-American".  With booze we have all kinds of choices: rot-gut whiskey, cognac, fine wine, beers made from exotic hops.  Vodka from potatoes or infused with any number of additives.  We've been convinced by the "booze association" only one form of their sundry of products is what we should consume.  But I don't want to consume that product any longer.  I don't want a rot-gut whiskey, I want a Fat Tire.  That doesn't make me a anti-alcohol.  No different with energy.  It's the form of energy that I take issue with.  We're drowning in energy – all forms.  I would rather transition to the forms that are infinite, job-creating and environmentally-benign.  That doesn't make me un-American.

    To address David's earlier comment [complete with a snark], I'm not anti-things like Thorium-based energy models.  But we've seen these things before.  We were promised a "hydrogen economy" was just around the corner two decades ago. It was nothing more than a distraction – and it worked.  We can talk about any alternative as far as I'm concerned as long as it is with a "long-view" of the economy and the environment.

    In the meantime we have mountains of natural resources to displace the destruction that comes with the lax regulatory regime around fossil extraction.  It isn't/won't be biofuels that cause further warming and starvation, it's the desertification of the earth's soils as a result of this climat shift – that is a direct result of our combustion of fossil fuels. 

    We could end this old paradigm in a decade if we wanted to …

  7. BlueCat says:

    Oh for God's sake, Michael, when are you going to run for something? We here will all be able to say we knew you when and will expect to be invited to some awesome parties.

    • MichaelBowman says:

      Thanks, B-Cat.  I have no doubt that day will come – when and how are still elusive.  I've only been in the party for four years [after 32 years as a Republican] so I really don't have any strong ties with the party infrastructure to date.  Contrary to popular belief – I don't have anyone in the state party on speed-dial.

      I like to get things done, so my current scenario gives me a great deal of satisfaction and always begs the question whether I'm more effective on the inside or the outside of the political machine. 

      When I ran for the SD-1 seat in 2010 I loved the campaigning – but even more, I gained a deep admiration for the people in southeastern Colorado and their challenges.  Having spent the bulk of my life in the northeastern corner of the state, I only had a cursory idea of what was going on south of Interstate 70 – although my great-grandfather originally homesteaded just south of Lamar before they moved north to Yuma County in 1914. The lack of action by the State, etal., Brophy or Gardner on the conservation easement issue that is bankrupting the regions farm and ranch families is borderline criminal.  36,000 acres of prime farmland and the attached water rights were bought up by Tri-State for a proposed coal plant – having a dramatic effect on the regions crop production. Now that SB-252 is in place, someone should be promoting putting that back in to production.  We missed an incredible opportunity to use the re-purposing of Ft. Lyon as a way to re-create the region's ag economy.  The Colorado Boys Ranch has closed its doors, and there is no one [Gardner in particular] even looking at getting in the queue with the Land and Water Conservation Fund to do some cutting-edge work around John Martin Reservoir. 

      That region is not short of resources to re-invent itself, but I'd agree with the locals – it has been woefully under-represented on nearly every level. The flip side of that is the majority of the voters out here are seemingly content with building new grievances against any Democrat rather than find a way to solve a problem. That door swings both ways.  Betsy Markey was probably the hardest working, best friend that area ever had – yet they flushed her the second they had a shot at replacing her with Cory. The majority spoke loud and clear they had no interest in me as their state senator – and it won't matter who the Republicans put on the ticket – that person will get the vote. 

      I wish it was different out here – I care a lot about his area – and we are drowning in resources [human, natural and capital].  Things don't have to be this way, but to have a [D] behind ones name is a death knell almost anywhere east of the 104th longitude [irrationally so I would argue, but nonetheless, irrational].  So for now I'll stay focused  working on the things I care deeply about, renewable energy, water, food and land use, and try to make a difference where I'm planted – which is on the outside of the circle.   Perhaps the New Year will bring with it a different opportunity.

  8. Duke Cox says:

    Things don't have to be this way, but to have a [D] behind ones name is a death knell almost anywhere east of the 104th longitude [irrationally so I would argue, but nonetheless, irrational].

    As is widely known, the same is true in many western slope counties. Heretofore, if you wanted to run and win, you must have done so as a Republican. Is that about to change? Not likely.


    • MichaelBowman says:

      Agreed, Duke. The Republican party has created such a toxic stew on this particular issue it's hard to imagine when/how/who will end it.  It's irrational, it's self-defeating.  I long for the days of Bev Bledsoe, Fred Anderson and Bud Moellenberg.  One a rancher, the other two, farmers.  They knew how to bridge the divide – and did it well. 

      • gertie97 says:

        And from the Western Slope, Dan Noble, Dave Wattenburg, Tillie Bishop, Jim Dyer, Ed Carpenter, Jim Robb…we had actual representation no matter what their party. They were thoughtful, far-sighted and worked with other legislators regardless of label. Now we're electing know-nothings and some people wonder why rural areas don't get any respect in the legislature. With the clowns who have been elected from the far reaches in the state, why in the world would they get an ounce of respect?


      • notaskinnycook says:

        That's a walk down Memory Lane, MichaelBowman. I grew up in Colorado in the days before the pointless third parties shoved term limits through; when those guys knew who their constituents were and what they needed. Now, they aren't there long enough to learn those things. The farmers and ranchers still refleively vote for the guy with the "R" after his name. Unfortunately, this isn't their fathers' Republican party. These tools work for the O&G industy and for Monsanto and ADM. Here's hoping rural colorado wakes up soon and figures out which party is actually on their side.  

        • Duke Cox says:

          Unfortunately, this isn't their fathers' Republican party. These tools work for the O&G industy and for Monsanto and ADM.


          Polarization and "taking sides" is the stock and trade of special interests like these. Compromise and concession for the common good are terms they don't even consider.

          In Mesa County, only those candidates who demonstrate complete fealty to the "Oily Boys" are even considered, much less elected. The pervasive dominant narrative is that our entire society here is dependant solely on the unfettered activity of the local petroleum economy.

          That is not true, of course, but guys like me are not welcome at the Chamber of Commerce "legislative update breakfast" or at Club 20 events. My understanding of reality is staunchly ignored in order to maintain the perception that our livelihoods are inextricably linked to Halliburtons' bottom line. The status quo is viciously maintained by those in power.

          I have considered running for the state legislature here, but have opted out because the personal attacks one inevitably suffers in this "bright red" community are not worth enduring in what is almost certainly a losing effort. The Republican party here is particularly vehement in its assault on anyone with the temerity to challenge its idiot darlings.

          And so, we are represented by brain trusts like Steve King, Ray Scott, and Jared Wright. It is frustrating and depressing… but it is reality.


          • MichaelBowman says:

            Coupled with the brain trust that's pushing secession –  and his overwhelming success last week at the ballot box.

            These articles are worthy of a response in the form of a blog entry on Pols, I just haven't decided whether I want to give up an hour of my life to peel the onion on his complaints.  Given that Commissioner Hare is an "at large"Commissioner in a county that resoundingly defeated the measure, he may want to start looking for a new line of work.  Perhaps a paid position by the secession movement – that should guarantee him a lifetime of work.

            • Duke Cox says:

              Mr. Hare articulates his point very well.

              He does not seem to recognize that life and evolution will not stop for him, and that his POV that it is all give for the rural counties and no take is wrong.
              I spoke yesterday with an oilfield worker who told me this countries’ biggest problem is, “there are too many liberals”.

  9. notaskinnycook says:

    I don't know abot that, Duke. Not only is he wrong, his grammar is bad. When I hear or read grammer that poor, I tend to stop reading/listening; figuring that if he can't even speak well, he probably doesn't know what he's talking about. If that's "rural Colorado's" idea of a spokesman, well, that explains alot

    • Duke Cox says:

      Yeah, nasc, you're right. As I reconsider my first impression, I misspoke. I should have said, "he articulates the accepted talking points thoroughly, not well… …considering the source.

      Clearly, this gentleman has learned how to string together sentences. His grammer emanates from and is usually directed at people whose literacy probably doesn't even rival his, so I am comparing him, likely, to a lower standard than you.

      I have spent the past year and a half living among the lower class in "red" America. I emanate from that background. They are family and friends. The best and brightest do not ordinarily remain in that culture. I will leave that… right there.


      If that's "rural Colorado's" idea of a spokesman, well, that explains alot

  10. notaskinnycook says:

    Oops, misspelled that second "grammar". My wife walked in from work and distracted me.

  11. MichaelBowman says:

    Film maker Ken Burns launching a great challenge this morning, "Learn the Address" celebration of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

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