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North Dakota’s budget craters under falling oil prices

REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Someone didn’t plan for every contingency. Jennifer Brooks of the Strib says, “Oil prices have been cut in half, and so has North Dakota’s budget. A drastic drop in the oil market has carved a $4 billion crater in the state’s budget plans, according to the revised revenue forecast the state issued Thursday. Instead of $8.3 billion in revenue oil and tax revenue the state had expected to collect in the 2015-2017 budget cycle, the revised projection — reflecting much lower oil prices and an increasing number of oil rigs suspending their operations — is $4.2 billion. … The budget Gov. Jack Dalrymple unveiled in December hinged on oil selling for between $72 and $82 a barrel through 2015-2017 budget cycle. But as oil prices plummeted, so did the state’s expectations.”

In the PiPress, Doug Belden writes, “The Minnesota Lottery narrowly escaped being reined in last session, and lawmakers are pushing again this year to stop the games’ expansion into online and other venues. Legislation passed the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform committee Wednesday that would require the Lottery to end online scratch-off games as well as ticket sales at gas pumps and ATM machines.” Dang! What’s a fella to do for four whole minutes while gasin’ up his rig? Contemplate the birdies?

I didn’t believe it when someone first told me about this. The West Central Tribune has a story by Tom Cherveny about the most unlikely of immigrants. “Thanks to Pacific Ocean breezes, temperatures on the islands of Micronesia do not fall below 70 degrees or rise above 90 degrees. ‘What would bring people in a place like that to a place like Minnesota, where I understand the temperature does get lower than 70 degrees?’ asked the Rev. Fran Hezel, a Jesuit priest. … Father Hezel spoke Jan. 19 to teachers from the region participating in a professional development day at the Lac qui Parle Valley Schools. The district currently serves more than 40 students from Micronesia in pre-K to high school classes, according to Lac qui Parle Valley Superintendent Renae Tostenson. There are nearly 200 Micronesians in Milan today.” Do we have an exchange program?

It was during the Kennedy administration the last time I had one of these. The PiPress story says, “The end is near for RyKrisp, the made-in-Minnesota rye cracker that once was a mainstay of dieters and Scandinavians. RyKrisp’s owner, ConAgra Foods, has notified employees that in March it will stop producing the hard cracker at the one and only production plant, which is in southeast Minneapolis. And then, after more than a century, RyKrisp will fade into history, a once-popular product that couldn’t survive changing consumer tastes.” Maybe if they slathered them in sea salt caramel chocolate?

Will Steger’s in the Duluth News Tribune today with a commentary on climate change. “In an unprecedented joint announcement, NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) announced that 2014 was the warmest year on record since recordkeeping began in 1880. This was a massive statement, one that has not been established lightly. Even accounting for chaotic weather patterns, volcanic eruptions, and solar heating, the NASA/NOAA report showed the Earth five times warmer now than it would be without greenhouse gases, which are caused by the burning of fossil fuels. … Let Gov. Mark Dayton and your state legislators know you support a clean-power plan for Minnesota. We have proven that strong public policy for renewable-energy standards works. Now we must continue our leadership position by seeking a higher renewable-energy goal so we can maintain a sustainable energy future for our state.”

Who’ll be the first to howl, “Nanny state!”? In the PiPress, David Montgomery says, “A Minnesota lawmaker wants to make it harder for parents to leave their children unvaccinated. Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, will introduce a bill today requiring parents to talk with a doctor about vaccines ‘and the diseases they prevent’ before they can opt out of immunizing their children.”

Directly related. Seth Borenstein of the AP reports, “The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues. And 98 percent of surveyed scientists say it’s a problem that we don’t know what they’re talking about. Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use, and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country’s largest general science organization. Scientists were more certain that global warming is caused by man, evolution is real, overpopulation is a danger and mandatory vaccination against childhood diseases is needed.” Scientists? Are they on “American Idol” or “FoxNews”?

And then, after setting her cat on fire … . KARE-TV reports, “A Chaska man is charged with assault, terroristic threats and animal cruelty after police say he bit off a portion of his girlfriend’s ear, threatened to kill her and previously strangled and dismembered her cat. … The charges state three week prior to this incident, [Michael Anthony] Trudeau allegedly lit the woman’s cat on fire in the middle of her living room. When the cat was extinguished, Trudeau allegedly choked the animal with his hands until it died.” Somebody is way beyond anger management therapy.

City Pages’ Cory Zurowski v. Rep. John Kline: “Only months into his seventh term in Congress, Republican Rep. John Kline has already said he has every intention to seek reelection in 2016. It’s the kind of forward thinking hubris afforded an incumbent who’s greased the wheels of his political career on Capitol Hill to the tune of $15 million in special interest money. But Kline’s deep political pockets, courtesy of corporate players like the University of Phoenix’s Apollo Education Group, isn’t intimidating enough to stop challengers from already lining up. … Earlier this week, Angie Craig, a 42-year-old medical device company executive and political candidate greenhorn, said she plans to mount a DFL challenge to the GOP incumbent in next year’s Second Congressional District election. Craig, an Eagan resident, who’s lived in Minnesota for a decade, joins Republican David Gerson, a two-time loser to Kline in the primaries, as heavy underdogs against an opponent, who’s become the well-established and copiously financed lackey for the for-profit higher education industry … .”


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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 01/29/2015 - 02:47 pm.

    I was a reliable RyeKrisp customer. And this announcement comes only a day after Andrew Sullivan wrote he was quitting blogging. 2015 is not off to a good start.

  2. Submitted by Tim Walker on 01/29/2015 - 02:50 pm.

    Nonsensical temperature statement …

    There’s a mistake in the published piece by Will Steger, which may be his fault or it may have been a transcription error by the Duluth newspaper.

    Either way, this phrase appearing in the original doesn’t make any sense:

    “… the NASA/NOAA report showed the Earth five times warmer now than it would be without greenhouse gases”

    Five times warmer?

    First of all, one cannot make these types of comparisons in temperatures: 5 x 10 degrees F = 50 degrees F, but 5 x -12 degrees C (which is the equivalent of 10 degrees F) = -60
    degrees C.

    I *think* Steger meant to write “5 degrees warmer” rather than “five times warmer” (and we’d still like to know if that temperature increase was in F or C).

    The Duluth newspaper needs to publish a correction, and MinnPost needs to do some legwork, too.

    • Submitted by Jack Pellinen on 01/29/2015 - 03:45 pm.

      My interpretation

      As I deciphered it, I believe the “5 times warmer” is referring to the difference between expected temperatures and those observed. That is, factoring in volcanic activity, chaotic weather, etc., we expected the temperature at such and such a year to have gone up by this much (let’s say 1 degree; doesn’t matter if it’s F or C). Instead, it rose by (to keep to the 5x quote) 5 degrees, and we attribute that five-fold increase to the effects of greenhouse gasses.

      In that case, the statement made sense. But it certainly could have been a little clearer with some numbers included.

      • Submitted by Richard Callahan on 01/29/2015 - 05:33 pm.

        No that still doesn’t work. If the average temperature was 0 degrees (C or F) what is a 5x increase? The only way this works is to use the absolute Kelvin scale so if the average temperature was 293K (20C or ~70F) and it went up 5x, the new temperature would be 1465K or 1192C or 2177F. Very hot indeed.

        I don’t think this is what the article meant.

        • Submitted by Brian Simon on 01/29/2015 - 08:31 pm.


          He is saying the rate of warming is 5 times higher than it otherwise would be. It’s not about a particular temperature, it is about the amount of change. Yes, it was clumsily written.

  3. Submitted by Pat Berg on 01/29/2015 - 06:00 pm.

    North Dakota monoculture

    And this is why a monoculture is never a good idea – whether it’s in a biological system or an economic one.

  4. Submitted by Steve Rose on 01/29/2015 - 06:29 pm.

    2014 was third warmest, but barely (0.01 C)

    “2014 was the third warmest year in the 36-year global satellite temperature record, but by such a small margin (0.01 C) as to be statistically similar to other recent years, according to Dr. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in
    Huntsville. “2014 was warm, but not special. The 0.01 C difference between2014 and 2005, or the 0.02 difference with 2013 are not statistically different from zero. That might not be a very satisfying conclusion, but it is at least accurate.””

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/29/2015 - 06:53 pm.


    Amen to Pat Berg. No region or state in this country that relies too heavily on a single, variable, unpredictable source of income is going to be economically stable.

    “The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues…” Scientists don’t have Fox News and hundreds of millions of dollars for public relations to counter the stupidity of numerous non-scientific or anti-scientific views currently taking up rhetorical space.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 01/29/2015 - 09:17 pm.

      Scientists are far less worried …

      “Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use, and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country’s largest general science organization.”

      More likely than Fox News, the American public is getting worried regarding these three topics from reporting by MSNBC and CNN.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 01/30/2015 - 07:36 pm.

        Of course Fox viewers aren’t worried about climate change.

        Their average age is 68 years old and studies have concluded that they’re least informed of all. If a debunked skeptic like John Christy is their go-to person to debate the issue, it’s obvious that science isn’t their forte.

        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 01/31/2015 - 11:15 am.

          “Studies have concluded…”

          With that lead, who trusts what comes next?

          From the NY Times (July 2014):

          “Dr. Christy, 63, has researched climate issues for 27 years and was a lead author — in essence, an editor — of a section of the 2001 report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the definitive assessment of the state of global warming. With a colleague at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Dr. Roy Spencer, he received NASA’s medal for exceptional scientific achievement in 1991 for building a global temperature database.”

          Now we know how you define “debunked”.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 02/02/2015 - 06:30 am.

            I define “debunked”

            as dismissing without merit. Once again, you only picked out the parts of this piece that you liked and dismissed the rest. Christy might be a hero to deniers, but he’s laughed at by the rest of the scientific community.

            • Submitted by Steve Rose on 02/02/2015 - 10:43 am.

              How Science works

              At least, the rest of science is not a thing of consensus, it advances by being challenged. Settled science ideas include a flat Earth and a geocentric universe. Are you still down with those ideas?

              According to, “ThinkProgress is a liberal American political blog that “provide[s] a forum that advances progressive ideas and policies”. Thus, we don’t even need to read the linked article to know what conclusions it will reach.

              The Earth’s climate complexities are manifold and poorly understood. If only we had an instrument that divined what climate change is due to nature and what is caused by man. We do know from the fossil record and from glacier ice cores that the Earth’s climate has always being in flux, never in a steady state. And, we do have computer models. Unfortunately all of the computer models that cover the last forty years have over-predicted warming by 3X. Yet, we love our computer models.

              • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 02/02/2015 - 12:47 pm.

                Yes, you should educate yourself as to ‘how science works.’

                “Scientific consensus is the collective judgment, position, and opinion of the community of scientists in a particular field of study.

                Consensus is normally achieved through communication at conferences, the publication process, replication (reproducible results by others), and peer review. These lead to a situation in which those within the discipline can often recognize such a consensus where it exists, but communicating to outsiders that consensus has been reached can be difficult, because the ‘normal’ debates through which science progresses may seem to outsiders as contestation.”


                ‘Science’ isn’t a machine that you drop variables into and *plop!* out come settled science. It’s a fluid process of action and reaction, trial, error, reproduction, peer review, and debate.

                • Submitted by Steve Rose on 02/02/2015 - 02:12 pm.


                  Does wikipedia have a article for you on dogma? As I understand how science work, and am employed in it full time, I have no interest in a wikipedia science summary.

                  A couple of quotes I find informative regarding dogma.

                  “Mistakes can be corrected by those who pay attention to facts but dogmatism will not be corrected by those who are wedded to a vision.” Thomas Sowell

                  “It’s not so much religion per se, it’s false certainty that worries me, and religion just has more than its fair share of false certainty or dogmatism. I’m really concerned when I see people pretending to know things they clearly cannot know.” Sam Harris

                  People tend to prefer certainty over ambiguity. If the scientific community fully understood the system of climate, they could predict its behavior. Since that cannot, they do not.

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