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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Investors Quit Big Stone II: Harbinger for Hyperion?

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.


  1. I wasn't surprised to see you celebrate this issue. Never mind all the lost jobs. I lived in Grant County from 1994-2008 and the power plant there is a great employer, and a great steward of the environment. It is a huge loss for our region.
    I may be wrong, but I assume from a lot of your ramblings that you do not work for a living. Instead, you are either independently wealthy, or live off the public trough. You're attitude would be a lot different if you were actually contributing to society.
    Donn Bosler

  2. Hey, Donn, and I assume from your ad hominem attacks that you don't feel secure enough about your argument to stick with the facts. Come introduce yourself and say that to my face. I'd love to be able to be sure that you're a real person and not just some troll paid by the power industry to cloud the issue and portray people with different opinions as not just wrong but lesser people, not worthy of participating in public discourse. Send your business card....

  3. Or, "Donn", instead of waiting for some big corporation to hand you a job, why not show some initiative and create your own business to create economic growth for your community? Pool some cash, build some wind turbines, show some self-reliance.

  4. if you dingy naysayers would stop and think for a minute instead of spouting your gibberish you would realize that no matter what your feelings are, the old axiom still holds true. money talks and bullshit walks. warren buffett and bill gates both took a look at BSII and dcecided it was a bad deal. when otter tail pulled out saying they can't get a return on their money, that should tell you that coal fired power is an old dinosauer and wind/solar is the way to go. get with it instead of fighting the inevitible. it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out, surely 5th graders like you can figure it out too. go back to school and get an education so you can contribute to society in a meaningful way.

  5. I see you never disagreed with my comments, but just attacked back. Trust me, I am a real person, who works for a small business. I was a small business owner for 10 years in the Milbank area, employing 5 people in my company. I still am waiting to hear what you do, besides being anti-business. I am self-reliant, and pay more than my share to the freeloaders of society. The fact is, Big Stone II will still be needed, and all you anti-power plant people will be the first crying when you have no electricity on the calm days when your precious windmill is not turning.

  6. Sorry, the previous post is from Donn Bosler

  7. "pay more than your share" -- again, that's a completely unverifiable claim. What does that have to do with the truth of your argument? Your argument should be able to stand on its own without your assertion that you are more moral than the rest of society.

    As for your actual claim, what part was I supposed to deny? I never made any claim about jobs in my original post. Yes, a coal-fired plant would bring temporary construction jobs and a smaller share of lasting plant jobs. So would prostitution and legalized drugs. Jobs don't mean it's a good plan. And your wished-for jobs don't deny any of the claims I made in the original post about coal plants and oil refineries as unsustainable energy projects. All I hear is Donn Bosler bragging about how great a citizen he is and how everyone else is a freeloader.

    When one door closes, another opens. No coal plant? Oh well. Start building windmills and solar panels to take up the peak demand the utilities need. Then they can put off building big generation plants (and raising our rates to finance them) for a few more years, which buys us more time to develop and implement other alternatives (maybe even nuclear plants?) that will further strengthen our energy supply and wean us off fossil fuels.

  8. ...and Doug from Union County sees my point. Dinosaur power is not a wise investment. That's not hippies talking: that's the hardnosed businesspeople at the utilities voting with their cash. Are those utility execs all useless freeloaders too?


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