Showing posts from March 27, 2011

Don’t Feel Bad about (All) White Elephants

Don’t Feel Bad about (All) White Elephants I rashly referred to a synfuels plant in North Dakota as one of Jimmy Carter’s white elephants. I say rashly because I said this to a member of Carter’s political party who immediately had to defend Jimmy (not James Earl) Carter against the perceived attack. It was impossible to get a word in saying that I actually liked that particular white elephant. The plant in question, in Beulah, North Dakota was called a big white elephant after petroleum and natural gas prices started declining instead rising to astronomical levels, which had been expected after the twin oil shocks of the Arab oil boycott in 1973 and the fall of the shah of Iran. But then, the price of oil collapsed, taking natural gas down with it. The government had less and less interest. Eventually, the plant was sold off to a private company and forgotten. But quietly, there were innovations. Canadian petroleum operations wanted to increase their extraction efficiency. Th