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WILTZ: Thoughts on energy, environment

When I no longer cared to watch the dismantling of the New York Jets by the New England Patriots (on Dec. 6), I flipped over to The Outdoor Channel. Hunters were scanning a slope with spotting scopes. Supposedly, 47 mule-deer bucks were within their view on this 38,000 acre Wyoming ranch. Most interesting to me, the ranch was covered with giant wind turbines. Energy development and the environment can be compatible.

I am going to say some things that are controversial. I care about the environment, I believe that compromise is necessary, and I'm tired of partisan politics. It appears to me that if South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota or Wyoming were back east, those wind turbines wouldn't be there because some self-appointed important people don't want to look at them.

When you drive down Highway 281 and approach the Highway 34 junction, you can look off to the west and see wind generators by Wessington Springs. Soon there will be more at White Lake. Awesome! No burned fuel, no pollutants in the atmosphere. The deer? They don't seem to mind. Did anyone ask you if you were offended by the view? No one asked me. Fortunately, this isn't Hyannis Port.

The news in the Dec. 6 (edition) of The Daily Republic disturbed me. President Obama changed his mind. No off-shore drilling on our east coast. Why? Some people don't want to look at drilling platforms from their ocean front terrace. Others claim there will be another spill. There would not have been a spill in the first place if British Petroleum wasn't forced to go so deep and so far off shore because some people didn't want to look at the oil rigs. However, BP's carelessness deserves some of the blame.

The war in the Middle East, or at least part of it, is about oil. There are folks reading today's paper, just as you read yours, who lost family in this war. Tell them we can't drill off of our own shore or on the Alaskan north slope because it doesn't look good, or because it might, for the moment, bother the caribou.

Think about our country's loss in human lives. Think about the cost of war. Think about how our economy would soar if OPEC wasn't setting the price of black crude. Americans could buy things other than fuel. It's not just the Arabs. Our greedy oil producers are just as guilty, and they are in cahoots with our greedy politicians.

I mentioned Alaskan wildlife. I care about Alaska's wildlife resources, but I also know that wildlife and oil can peacefully coexist. Yes, an oil field will disrupt wildlife in the immediate area. Yes, while a pipeline is being built, some moose and caribou will be taken illegally. However, the money generated by this new oil supply can also be used to protect and manage the wildlife around it.

Automotive engineers tell us that E-20 fuel won't damage an engine. Let's make E-20 a minimum standard for all vehicles and set a reasonable time frame for adopting a policy. It will reduce our use of foreign oil and create jobs in new high tech ethanol plants. It will also promote the development of improved yields for alcohol producing crops.

I can give you some first-hand information about E-85 fuel. Just before we left for our trip to the east coast in late September, we traded our 2006 Honda Civic for a 2010 Chevy Impala program car. We loved the Honda's 40 mpg mileage and its great handling, but it left me with a very sore butt. Comfort counts for something.

I had a preconceived notion that the money saved buying E-85 would be more than offset by poorer gas mileage. I was wrong. In driving to Winchester, VA, we averaged 33 mpg driving down the toll road at 70 mph while burning E-10 ethanol. On our return trip, we averaged 30 mpg while burning E-85.

If my math is correct, the E-85 was 15-percent cheaper at $2.35 per gallon for E-85 and $2.75 a gallon for E-10 ethanol. My mileage loss was only 9 percent. We saved money by buying E-85, and we put fewer pollutants into the air. We also supported American agriculture. I realize that ethanol is not the sole solution to our energy woes, but it is a part.

n Ice fishing on the lakes and stock dams around Burke is as good as ice fishing gets. There are many good spots including Burke Lake, but I'd recommend the Eide Dam north of Burke. It is a fish factory full of bluegills, crappies and bass, and you're welcome to fish it.

Oakley Eide, who operates a pheasant hunting preserve known as "The Outback," also has a lodge. Actually, it is an old remodeled farmhouse complete with two baths, numerous bedrooms and a full kitchen. It's not fancy, but it's clean, warm and cozy. I like to stay out there overnight and hold down travel expenses. You can do the same. It is a great place for the whole gang with fishing practically on the doorstep. Give him a call at 605-775-2267. You won't be sorry.

See you next week.