Rising Tide?

Too often, I wonder if my America, where proud people think things through and make awesome things happen, is gone

By Dave Skinner

With a few other intrepid Flathead citizens, my Dadster and I watched the Bigge megaload climb Meridian Road and make the turn onto U.S. Highway 93. Time well spent.

Given all the sturm und drang over megaloads from those of a certain worldview, I just had to have a bit of vindictive fun while waiting for the “excitement” – asking other spectators if they planned on throwing themselves under the wheels or getting arrested.

Sorry, no takers.

Things went beautifully. The grade was steep enough to allow a walk-along inspection while listening to the discreet snarl of power from the tractors. The neatest part happened when the load crested Meridian Hill. All four tractor units came out of the throttle in perfect harmony. So smooth…then the entire mega-pound contraption articulated its way around the intersection and departed into the night for Calumet in Great Falls. Cool! America, baby!

Man, I was feeling pretty smug and patriotic – until one fellow enjoying the show with me explained the cargo wasn’t made in the U.S.

So, I looked it up later, in a nice article by Karl Puckett of the Great Falls Tribune. Yep. Made in Italy, shipped around the world to the wrong ocean on the left coast, upriver to the back side of the mountains from its final destination.

When it’s all bolted together, production capacity at Calumet in Great Falls will double, another 20,000 barrels a day, focusing on low-sulfur diesel fuel, something Montana needs more of.

It’s all part of a new “hydrocracker” for breaking down heavy Canadian crude from the tar sands, and a follow-up Puckett story explained the 250-ton payload was originally constructed for a California refinery and sat in the port of Stockton for six years. Hey, recycled and repurposed! Maybe that’s why the only Bigge protests prior to Kalispell were at Moscow (the one in Idaho) and Sandpoint – both places which, in recent years, make Whitefish seem conservative.

But I also dug up a story that the Wild Idaho Rising Tide “collective” planned carpools out of Missoula for a rolling protest starting at Swan Lake, according to the “community organizer” interviewed by the Missoulian’s Dillon Kato.

Well, as Bigge supervisor Chuck Beam told reporter Puckett, “the last protester we saw was at Clearwater and that was just one lady with a sign.” Apparently, this same “one lady” posted a “monitoring” video on YouTube. I watched, and listened as she huffed about driving in the wrong lane at 45 mph not being “totally safe” – while operating a video cam, of course. There’s more, video from the “one lone protester from another state” – her words.

Then, on Sept. 2, I learned the Whitefish City Council, at the request of Glacier Climate Action, was considering sending the Surface Transportation Board a letter, asking for a public hearing about the Tongue River Railroad be held in Whitefish. I first thought, bad idea. But then I read the news: Rising Tide Seattle oil-train protestors were blocking the tracks in Everett, and did so for eight hours. One woman sat atop a 25-foot steel tripod stabilized by chaining the tripod legs to other protesters.

Now, did these people mine the ore and smelt the steel for the tripod, and, most important, did they recycle the steel afterwards? What about the toxic chemicals used to make the cell phones they used to talk to the media? How did they fuel their cars to haul all that junk from home to the tracks? With cruelty-free gut gas from free-range hamsters? Oh, you used a Prius? Fine, but Seattle gets at least 20 percent of its electricity straight from dirty old Colstrip.

So yeah, I dragged myself up to Whitefish and let the council know I think we should have a hearing on the Tongue River Railroad. Too often, I wonder if my America, where proud people think things through and make awesome things happen, is gone.

Is there any common sense left around here, or has a rising tide already drowned it all? Seems such a hearing would be a perfect opportunity for us all to find out – one way, or the other.

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