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  • I drove out to Confluence Point State Park on Saturday.

    Taking advantage of the fall in gasoline prices, locally $1.74 on that particular day.

    I say taking advantage, but I would probably have driven out if gas was twice as expensive - as indeed it was not so long ago.

    Gas is always relatively cheap in Missouri. Partly due to a very low state gasoline tax, partly due to the central role Missouri plays in the North American hydrocarbon pipeline and refinery network.

    Across the Mississippi from the Confluence point lies the massive Wood River Refinery. Fed by and feeding out through the Keystone pipeline as well as other lesser known pipelines, such as the Koch Industries pipeline that I picture here. A maze of petroleum product pipes, mostly unknown and unacknowledged until they leak.

    Enough to make the environmentalist within me quail.

    But here I was with a tank of cheap gasoline, cheap in no small part thanks to the oil conduit running beneath my feet.

    Is this a Devil's Bargain? One I have all too willingly accepted, despite never going down to the crossroads with my black cat bone?

    If I had, I probably would have driven to that too.

    Meanwhile, I receive daily exhortations through my email to petition against the Keystone expansion, the Keystone XL line. A line that would not directly impact St. Louis, but would instead feed into the existing Keystone network, passing even more oil to Wood River and beyond.

    Assuming, of course, that it makes economic sense to do so. With today's West Texas Intermediate Feb 15 future priced at about $46, I suspect that many a financial institution bankrolling any potential expansion might be having some qualms. Not perhaps qualms on the level of the queasiness I felt standing over the Koch pipeline, but qualms nonetheless.

    Obama has yet to veto a bill as yet not presented to him. The political arguments swirl, based in large measure on positions staked out to satisfy supporters rather than cold facts. But isn't that always the way? Who knows what will happen.

    But standing by a field in St. Charles County, looking out over farmland bracketed above and below by agents of power, such arguments lose any sense of contemporary relevance. The horse left the stable a long time ago.
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