Rob Port | Shale Plays Media Contributor
This last week President Barack Obama made a rare Presidential visit to North Dakota – just the 14th time a sitting president has come to the state – and an even rarer visit to Indian Country. His visit to the Standing Rock reservation was just the 4th time a sitting President has visited a Native American reservation.
Seeking to horn in on the auspicious occasion were a group of protesters organized by Bold Nebraska, an anti-Keystone pipeline organization.
A handful of the protesters – observers on hand put the number between six and a dozen – set up at Cannon Ball Crossing, a convenience store near the town of Cannon Ball where the President would be delivering his speech. This was also, not coincidentally I’m sure, a staging area for the media covering the event.
This was, I’m pretty sure, the first anti-Keystone protest to take place on North Dakota soil. If there has been another one, it wasn’t large enough to pop up on this North Dakota observer’s radar.
That’s a significant fact when considering the import of the anti-Keystone movement. In North Dakota, where rails and highways are packed with trucks and rail cars moving oil from the Bakken formation, the importance of pipelines is understood. We know the oil is going to be pumped. Private mineral rights owners have every right to develop their property. What’s more, the nation needs the oil.
For better or worse, our economy runs on the stuff.
We also know that pipelines, while not perfect, are the safest way to move the oil. Pipelines don’t cause highway pileups. Pipelines, unlike rails and highways, mostly avoid populated areas. Pipelines don’t derail and explode.
Which brings us back to that protest staged here in North Dakota by a group from Nebraska. It was small in number, and seemed to consist mostly of professional activists who traveled from outside of the state to hold their signs and shout their slogans. Few locals joined their ranks.
They got their media attention – reporters rarely go to great lengths to put into perspective how tiny these sort of protests usually are – but in general the anti-Keystone movement doesn’t seem to have a lot of traction in North Dakota.
Maybe because here we know the oil has to be moved, and we’re in favor of the safest way of doing it.
If only that sort of pragmatism would infiltrate the anti-Keystone movement.