Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil

(Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014)


I have inherited my grandfather’s North Dakota mineral rights, which he acquired in the late 1940s. But my grandfather’s oil-loving era is over. I’m in favor of policies that promote renewable energy of all kinds and energy efficiency. Please read this brief excerpt from my memoir, Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil, which advocates a revenue-neutral carbon tax:


Imagine a dining room table big enough to seat all of us. I’m in this room, and so are you. We’ve got cups of coffee and plates of cookies. We’re here to haggle over the details of a new agreement, which describes an energy policy as efficient as the North Dakota wind and as direct as a North Dakota farmer’s gaze.

Because we’re so good at haggling, we’ve been sitting at this table a long time, but we’re getting closer. Someone begins to read the latest draft:

We agree on this ____ day of ________to impose on any manufacturer, producer, or importer of a carbon polluting substance a fee in accordance with this section.

The complicated sentences wind around and around the room, but they make a simple point: Fossil fuel causes pollution, myriad health ailments, and climate change. We agree to add the cost of those problems to the fuels that cause them. We agree to impose this cost — this tax — on fossil fuel producers, but we also agree to rebate the revenue in a fair and equitable way to ourselves.

This agreement will lower carbon emissions, and all of us on this big working playground of ours – a continent that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific — will benefit.

We know this policy will encourage us to use less of yesterday’s high-carbon fuel and live our lives in a less environmentally damaging way. We also know it will encourage our inventors to invent, and our investors to invest in, tomorrow’s low-carbon technology. Dazzle us! we’ll say. And they will.

By the time we sign this agreement and shake hands, stand up, stretch, and drift away from the table, the next boom — the solar boom — will be well underway. Solar technology could be so cheap, so everyday, we will buy it at Target.

I see a lot of wherefores and hereinafters in this contract and a lot more haggling, but I also see a way to get off the road we’re on. I see hope.

(taken from Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014)



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