Could good news breed good news? Might the death of the proposed Big Stone II coal plant in northeast South Dakota signal the impending extinction of Hyperion's proposal to bring dinosaur power to the southeast corner of the state? Big Stone II failed because it couldn't convince investors to bet their money on a big unsustainable energy project. Backers of the Grant County coal plant were trying to buck a negative investment trend that has seen 100—now 101—coal plants defeated or abandoned since 2000 as high rollers like Warren Buffet realize stuffing their money in the coal-power mattress is not a wise move.
Now Hyperion has to convince these same cautious energy investors to sink their capital into a project that will use an even dirtier fuel source and cause even more environmental disruption in its construction and operation. Shell Oil says the tar sands oil Hyperion would refine is cleaner than coal... but Shell also made $351M in profit on its tar sands operations in quarter 2 this year. **[Update!] On the climate change score sheet, BSII would have pumped 4.5 million tons of CO2 annually. Hyperion's complex would emit 19 million tons.** Oil refineries are also more likely to explode than coal plants (pace BP).
As Dean Spader points out in a Sunday letter to that Sioux Falls paper, the Hyperion refinery would take 6,000 acres of some of South Dakota's most productive farm land out of production. "No advanced civilization destroys and pollutes its source of food," says Spader. "Nor should any Christian nation ever deliberately annihilate rich cropland when 1 billion people are starving."
Far be it from me to appeal to the Christian sentiments of venture capitalists. The business case alone is enough to make them back away from refineries. Valero, the biggest refiner in America, is losing money on oil and switching off refineries. The only bright spot in its portfolio: all those ethanol refineries they bought from bankrupt Verasun.
Blame the recession, blame ACESA... heck, blame me and my fellow bike-riding propagandists. The cold hard facts of the market say investors are looking for smarter, cleaner, more sustainable places to put their money than fossil fuels.
Memo to Preston Phillips, Albert Huddleston, et al.: have you thought of installing wind turbines and solar panels on that land you've optioned? There's some decent Class 3 wind down around Elk Point, and we can get you just about as much solar potential as down in Dallas. Plus, you wouldn't be dependent on foreign oil!
Update 09:17 CST: Of course, don't tack this blog post up on your bulletin board in Union County. Elected officials there might threaten to fine you for speaking out against the refinery.
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