Because the media are formula-driven, last winter’s bitter cold makes “what-if-it-happens-again” stories inevitable as we move toward fall. For one thing, it’s easier when half the story is already written.
And sure enough, “what-if” stories started showing up a couple of weeks ago. We mention them only to point out what they’re practically guaranteed not to mention.
Here it is: Whatever hardship Midwesterners endured last winter with high propane prices and short supply, it’s due in substantial part to political appeasement of the environmental movement. That’s the one thing Reuters News Service missed in this story from last week, which otherwise got it pretty right.
Last fall brought heavy, late-season propane demand for grain-drying. Supplies weren’t fully replenished in time for the brutal winter. Then winter held on longer than usual. All true.
But also true is that a lot of propane is delivered by rail, and railroads have seen stupendous growth in demand for their service because oil producers need rail cars to move crude out of the Northern Plains to refiners elsewhere in the country.
Much of that crude would move by pipeline, if Barack Obama and Democrats down the food chain hadn’t contrived to entangle the Keystone XL Pipeline in regulatory red tape for going on six years.
This month also brought stories about coal shortages at Minnesota and Wisconsin power plants, suggesting a coal-themed replay of last winter’s propane crisis.
Different tune, same chord changes. Coal is mostly shipped by rail and railroads are busy hauling oil that could be moved—with less risk to the environment, by the way—through the pipeline if it existed.
If your home heating costs go crazy this winter and your electric utility has to scramble to keep your lights on, remember to thank an environmentalist.