In Wyoming, I encountered first at a restaurant and later at my motel a group of professors and students from Stanford University. They were participating in this course:
Energy in the West: Students will explore practical, social, and political issues surrounding energy and the West. Using Wyoming–the largest energy provider in the United States–as a case study, students will consider the availability and viability of coal, oil, and gas (including coal-bed methane production and fracking), CO2 capture and storage, hydropower, and wind and solar energy. They will consider questions of the security of energy supply, global warming, environmental impacts, and economics and public policy, with particular attention to the so-called water-energy nexus, a critically important issue for Wyoming.
They included international students and looked a lot like this:
Later I sat at a small airport amid a group of men who work in the oil industry. One of them gets off his phone and says to the other: “You know, that’s a good little well. 120 barrels a day.” “Yeah,” says the other. They looked sort of like this:
Over in the corner, someone was interviewing a man about water rights. He had given a talk on the subject at some conference. Here are some of the words and phrases I heard: surface water, groundwater, superior court, overturned on appeal, 100-year water rights, inside/outside the line, adjudication …
Then a hefty guy in a t-shirt (SARCASM IS THE BODY’S DEFENSE MECHANISM TO STUPID) and work pants climbed out of a pickup truck, thanked his buddy for the ride, and entered the terminal. An employee of an oil-and-gas-services company called Praxair.
(Tagline: At Praxair, we are working together toward a single goal: making our planet more productive. Hurray! And not only that, but last year, this $38.46 billion company, with $11.93 billion in sales, together with (read: relying entirely upon) its 27,560 employees, donated a stunning $6.3 million to, I QUOTE, “further education, enhance local communities, promote cultural diversity, improve access to healthcare, provide disaster relief and — wait for it — preserve and protect the environment around the world”! Golly gee willikers. That works out to $228 per employee! Though CEO Stephen Angel may have accounted for a bit more, seeing as he earned a respectable and surely well-deserved $26.48 million in compensation last year. Calculated as a percentage of its market capitalization, Praxair’s mind-blowing, incomprehensibly generous commitment to solve pretty much all of the world’s problems works out to .0163849154746% of its value as a business!)
Meanwhile, the good people of Wyoming checked me in at my motel, poured a draft beer for me, cooked and served me an outstanding burger and fries, set out breakfast at the motel the next morning, cleaned up my room after I left, assigned me a seat on the plane, checked my bags for weapons and contraband, guided the plane as it taxied in, loaded my luggage onto it, and began to refuel the plane in preparation for its return to Denver.
The oil execs watched as a woman, a large woman, placed a ladder next to the wing of the plane. She stretched the hose and its nozzle as she climbed the ladder to reach the opening to the fuel tank. One of them said, “Hope she knows what the weight load capacity of that ladder is.” One of the others sniggered.
Then we all got on the airplane and flew out of Wyoming.