Our nation and the world need natural gas, but our extraction companies in the Bakken are flaring away much of it because of low gas prices and the cost of capturing it for use as fuel and fertilizer.
However, companies like the Norwegian firm Statoil do capture rather than flare away the gas brought to the surface in the oil fracking process.
In fact, as reported in the April 24 Minot Daily News, Statoil is working with General Electric in implementing a technology called Compressed Natural Gas in a Box "that captures natural gas that would otherwise be flared and moves it by tank and truck to wherever it is needed."
How come they can do this and we can't? What is it with our particular brand of capitalism that leads to lighting up the nighttime sky and releasing CO2 night and day into the atmosphere?
Natural gas prices may be too low presently for companies to employ the expensive process of drilling for it. But if we are already drilling for oil and we inadvertently release natural gas in the process, the additional cost of capturing that gas can't be prohibitively expensive.
Or maybe it is for us, but not for Statoil. What must the people of Norway, especially those with North Dakota connections, think of our narrow, inflexible, uncreative, wasteful and polluting way of doing business?
And what do North Dakotans think? If farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishers, hikers, campers, boaters, and other outdoors folks, parents, school children and other concerned citizens, all speak up more, ratchet up the pressure, we should be able to get our companies to at least talk to General Electric and Statoil and see how it can be done.
Pardon the strong language, but good grief already. And don't get me going about the carelessly disposed radioactive filter socks and the dangerously flammable Bakken oil that exploded and wiped out a town in Canada, killing 47 people, and could have done similar destruction to Casselton and its residents if the exploding train had been a mile or so closer.
But then the filter socks have already been directly and clearly addressed in Daily News editorials, and the persons who should have done more to prevent oil train disasters were called out by Ron Schalow in an April 27 letter to the editor, "Who knew what and when?"
Perhaps the best summary of state officials' oversight of the oil fields was in another published letter I wish I could find to quote exactly. It said, as I recall, Helmsy's job is to stay out of Hammsy's way.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)