Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 11, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
"T District The Lethbridge Herald Local news SECOND SECTION Lethbridge, Alberta, Monday, February 11, 1974 Pages 13-24 i I 'Come on down9 we9ll give you gasoline9 i CONRAD You could say energy crisis is a dirty pair of words in this Montana town of some 60 miles south of the Canadian border. "I really don't think there is an energy says Jack Lee, editor-owner of the weekly Pondera County Independent observer, and president of the Conrad Chamber of Commerce. "It's big business telling the government what to do and big companies filling their pockets." Bob Gustaf son, sales manager at Conrad Farm Implements, doesn't like the energy-crisis-motivated 55 m.p.h. speed limit "Fifty-five? I hate it with a passion because it puts the general public in the position of breaking another law. It sets them up for highway patrol violations." John Park, who farms near Dutton, 30 miles to the south, and stopped in at the implement dealers on the way back from a cattle auction in Shelby, added: "I don't think there's any problem here getting fuel." PRICE UP "They got the price up I think that's what they wanted." Robert Arnot, mayor of Conrad says, "the water shortage is more critical here than any gasoline shortage." Mayor Arnot, who's run a furniture store in town for 33 years professes not to even think of the energy crisis. "The only thing we're kicking about now is the price of gas the way it's going he said. "But it's not going to affect he adds. "A lot of snowbirds around here go south in the winter, and it hasn't stopped them." Mayor Arnot calls his town a good solid business community. "All we have is fanning, not another thing farming and cattle ranching. "Conrad is in a bonanza right here with (a bushel) wheat our whole economy is firmer." "We have real good financial institutions, a lot of big fanners and a lot of irrigation here." RECOVERING Conrad is recovering from a couple of economic jolts it suffered within the last two years. The town was to be one of the locations for the American anti-ballistic missile program and work had begun on two sites near the town when the program was cancelled. Population of the town was expected to double and it was just beginning to taste the boom when it crashed. Mayor Arnot keeps a small chunk of two-inch reinforcing steel from the ABM site on his desk as a memento. And a year-and-a-half ago, Interstate 15 which bypasses the town was finished, making Conrad more dependent than ever on the surrounding farm economy. "It was a dry year last year, but wheat still made it one of the biggest cash said Wayne Anderson, of the Cenex Farmers Supply Co-op. According to Mayor Arnot, the Farmers Supply Co-op and Conrad Implements are the biggest businesses in town, each doing more than million in business a year. "Petroleum products and fertilizer are going up in price, and fanners are worried about it. but I don't think they're too Where's the energy crisis? Nixon measures 'unpopular' What energy crisis? Jack Lee wonders if it exists worried with the price of wheat up 2V2 Mr. Anderson said. "With the national demand, and the world shortage, we're looking at a food crisis, instead of an energy he said. GOOD AS EVER There was little evidence of an energy crisis at the local Ford dealer either. "Ninety per cent of the people aroutfd here have driven big cars all their lives and own one said salesman Rich Lamma. "They're not getting into a big sweat to trade off for a little one now." Mr. Lamma claimed the new car market for big cars was as good as ever, but admitted sales of small cars were up three times over a year ago. "Of course there's not a shortage here people are more concerned with gas he said. "The big cars average 16-18 miles per gallon and the little guys get 20-25 Seventy-five per cent of the people say that's not much of a difference." Mr. Lamma said he believed there may be a shortage, but it's dot nearly as bad as has been suggested. "How come all of a sudden out of a clear blue sky, there was nothing he asks. "It's time we start digging in holes and find out who's responsible." 1 He said when the energy crisis started sales were down substantially for about a month, but once the initial scare was over they settled back to normal. Down the street which used to be the highway to Great Falls, Dick Eckstein, who's run his Conoco station there since 1952, said, "If you ask me, I think there's lots of gasoline around." He's selling regular at 45.9, isn't limiting customers in the amount of gas they can buy and is still open on Sunday's though he's cut his Sunday hours back a bit. Mr. Eckstein says the gasoline price rises were really the first in a long time and proportionally out of line. "Look at the way everything else is going up. But it hurts, because it happened so fast." He said he expected gas prices to go up again this month. All the increases but the last one were straight through increases, he said. Conrad farmer Watson Hoover, perhaps -expressed the mood of many Montanans when he said, "I don't ever do anything right last fall I bought a Winnebago and now there's a gas shortage." Then he paused and after reflection added: "But I don't know, I still see a tot of them on the road." Mayor Arnot has no such doubts. "Tell all your Canadian friends to come on he said. "We'll give them gas Montana has had Daylight Savings Time since Jan. 6 and will likely get a 55 m.p.h. speed limit on its highways in the near future. Indications are most Montanans don't like either measure both of which are being imposed on them by an energy crisis that's at least hard to find if not totally non-existent in the state. By ANDY OGLE Herald Staff Writer They complained early and loudly about daylight savings time, primarily because, as elsewhere, it means their children are walking to school in the dark. Like Alberta, Montana is always on fast time anyway since the line separating the mountain and Pacific time zones runs down its western boundary. The effect is "double daylight time" and in January the sun doesn't come up until around a.m. Accidents involving children on their way to school in the dark spurred several complaints and, later on as estimates that daylight time was saving only a fraction of one per cent of energy consumption were made public, newspapers and legislators were peppered with angry letters and telephone calls. Schools in Helena, the state's capital, moved starting times back half-an-hour, and in Great Falls an hour later start was decreed and then abandoned after many parents complained a.m. starting times would disrupt their schedules. The 55-m.p.h. speed limit is expected to be just as unpopular. President Richard Nixon gave states 60 days at the beginning of January to put through 55- m.p.h. limits or lose federal funds for highway construction. Bill introduced A speed limit bill has been introduced in the current session of the Montana legislature but there's been no rush to put it through. "This bill is very says state representative Walter Laas, who introduced it as chairman of the House highways and transportation committee. But he says the state could lose about million in federal highway funds if it didn't pass the bill. A bill to put a 75-m.p.h. speed limit onX7 highways was rejected last year and there's still no daytime limit on Montana highways. Night speed limit on main highways is 65 m.p.h. There's been talk in some quarters of setting a 55 m.p.h. limit, but attaching no penalty or a minimal fine to violations of that limit. "All we have to do to comply with the federal act is to pass the says Mr. Laas. "I can't ;ee where we have to impose a specific jenalty." The bill as written, would make exceeding 55 m.p.h. a misdemeanor subject to a maximum fine or six months in jail. "I'd like to see violations (of the 55 m.p.h. limit) not show on driving records or insurance Mr. Laas said. "Whether or not this can be adopted though, I don't know." In a letter to the Great Falls Tribune, a Great Falls resident suggested traffic tickets issued for exceeding 55 m.p.h. but still within the realms of safe driving, should be issued on the basis of violation of the fuel rationing regulations set by the U.S. government rather than an infraction of-safety rules. Fifty would be thrifty but speed limits are unchanged so far 'An unfair mark9 "I believe it would be unfair for a driver to have a mark against his record as violating safety conditions on the basis of the arbitrary figure selected by President Nixon, without ever relating this to the safe operation of a he said. Allen Toftley, of the state highway traffic safety office, says the 55 m.p.h. limit would not be without its own set of safety problems. He says he doubts it will cut the accident rate, although it probably would cut the highway fatality rate, simply because the severity of accidents at lower speeds is less. "Our roads are designed for higher he points out. 55, you would need more space to pass and there would be fewer passing zones and quite likely more line-ups of cars travelling together." Mr. Toftely says he believes people generally arc driving slower now, at about 65 m.p.h. instead of 71 or 72. "But they're just not used to he says. Captain D. B. Tooley of the state highway patrol says police on the highways have also noticed a reduction in speeds. He says 85 per cent of the people will probably -go along with a 55 m.p.h. limit be too much of a problem although jt may cause a shortage of manpower. He didn't comment on the suggestion that fines for exceeding 55 m.p.h. be minimal. Unaffected so far Higher gasoline prices and energy crisis publicity don't seem to have so far affected the volume of traffic in the state that much. Ed Donovan, of the highways department's planning and research division, said there was not much indication yet of a reduction in driving by state residents and visitors. "But it may be down a little on Sundays because some gas stations are he said. "Statistics for December 1973 indicated traffic volumes on interstate highways, primary and secondary roads and on city streets were up only by a fraction of one per cent from December, 1972. Increases in traffic for the year over 1972 were in the six per cent range, indicating the December increase was below normal. "The energy crisis might be having some Mr. Donovan said, "although it might have been the weather." While not yet a problem in Montana, gasoline availability in other parts of the U.S. has Montanans planning trips a little apprehensively. Most people you talk to usually can tell you about someone they know who's been on a long trip and had no problems. 'Way of life threatened by coal plants9 HELENA Dick Colberg was a single-issue candidate when he ran for a seat in the Montana state house. "I ran to make coal an didn't expect to win." says the young Democrat from Billings. The fact that he did win underlines just how important what can be done with to this coal-rich state, and particularly to the people of Eastern Montana who will be most affected by coal-development. Western estimated 43 billion tons in Montana being increasingly eyed by big energy companies for the production of electricity and for coal gasification. At tiny miles east of Billings, toe coal boom has already started. A consortium of five Pacific northwest power companies are building two 350-megawatt coal- fired generating plants. Two more megawatts approval by state authorities. The recent North Central Power Study, undertaken by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and about three dozen private and public utilities, recommends construction of 42 coal-burning plants in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota. South Dakota and Colorado. Ten of the proposed giant plants would be concentrated in a 70-mile long, 30-mile wide strip between Colstrip and Gillette, Wyo. Destination of much of the electricity these plants would produce is the power-hungry west coast LitUe wonder the residents of the sparsely- populated rolling randiland of eastern Montana are worried. In reaction to this, the state has already passed a strong reclamation bill and a unique utilities siting bill which gives the state 600 days to study plans for any large electric power, nuclear power, coal gasification or gas plants. And instead of making the taxpayer foot the bill for the studies, the companies applying to build the plants pay a percentage of the total cost of the plant for the study. The utilities applying to build the two 700 MW units at Colstrip paid a million application fee under the bill. The rationale behind this, says John Goers, staff coordinator for the Montana Energy Advisory Council, is that the local taxpayer should not pay the cost of evaluating the impact of what huge private industry proposes. The application fee itself is no guarantee the project will get approval. The state has the authority to say or a qualified "yes" as to plant location and design. 4 basic concerns The social, economic and environmental impact of coal development in eastern Montana is large, says Mr. Goers. There are four basic reclamation, water consumption, air pollution, and social-economic change, he says. Of these, says Mr. Goers, land reclamation, while probably the most visible and catchiest for crusaders, is of the smallest magnitude. Water consumption, be believes, is a more serious problem Large power plants and coal-gasification plants use prodigious amounts of water, and in the Colstrip-area it would all have to come from one Yellowstone Rrver with an average annual flow of 9.8 million acre feet. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation 2.6 million acre feet annually would be available for industry without hurting anything. "The problem with says Mr. Goers, "is that averages don't mean much when'you're computing uses of water." Thete have been dry years when the flow was only four to 4.5 million acre feet, be says. Water consumption by industry would continue right through the dry years, using up two-thirds of the flow. That would be devastating for a lot of other uses for the agriculture, municipal, fisheries, be says. Rep. Colberg is trying to prove that the long term economic benefit of using all that water for irrigation to produce food would be greater than to use it for coal development. He feels there's a potential for bringing 2.3 million acres of land under irrigation, which, he says, would bring in an annual income greater than all the annual coal development. And it's quite renewable. As it stands, he says, there's a real possibility that industry consumption of water could threaten agriculture, pre-empting any possibility of developing irrigation. It will also probably mean construction of large dams on the Yellowstone. Air pollution is a problem that industry says it will be able to meet. and. according to Mr Goers, this may be true because of development of wet-scrubbing methods for low-sulphur coal. The companies assure the state that air- quality standards will be met. he says "This may be so, but even meeting ihe quality standards, the plants burn so much coal hundreds of tons of material will get away every year." v In a nutshell the area has a sparse rural population with country and town life styles, he says. "Bring in tens of thousands of people and the political, social and economic structure will be changed. The existing way of life is at stake." "And." he adds, "we don't know what it will do to vegetation or what the cumulative impact of a number of plants win do to visibility, for example." The biggest problem, in Mr. Goers estimate, may be in dealing with the social and economic change coal development will bring. Several bills "At present the problem we're least prepared to cope with is the people problem State Representative, Harrison Fagg, a Repubican from Billings, is clearly worried about that introduced several bills aimed at easing the adjustment. "Whether people want it or not, it-appears it's going to he says. "I for one am not in favor of it, but feel we've got to prepare for it." One of his bills would, for example, allow local government to tax a new facility at its full value, the minute construction started. In this way. he feels, the cost of providing services for Jarge construction crews conW be met when they're needed, not after the facility is completed and only then being taxed on its total value But they also tell you about people they know who have put off a trip because of the general climate of uncertainty. The American Automobile Association began surveying gasoline stations in January and now puts out a weekly report on the availability of gas in all areas of the U.S. Travelling in cars Helen Mateucci, who organizes tour vacations for auto association members in Great Falls, says people are taking trips as long as they always have. However, she says, people are travelling in passenger cars rather than motor homes or recreation vehicles and are staying in motels. summer we ran out of campground books in July; this year we anticipate we'll have more than we she said. Two Great Falls recreation vehicle dealers interviewed about sales put up a brave show on forecasts that the energy crisis will deal them a hard blow. "Maybe I'm whistling Dixie, but I have to tell you that right now we're running scared, but conservative said Chuck Lalttit of Lalttit Trailers. Sales in January and February depend on the weather and when the weather turned nice, "we got our traffic he said. "Recreation vehicles are starting to move, not rapidly, but it seems to be indicative of any other year. We're not too worried bat we'll watch our buying closer than we ever have." Mr. Lalttit said he believes people will still travel but will stay closer to home. Gas hasn't really gone up that much yet, he said. On a 20-gallon fill-up, that's only more. "I don't think it will make that much difference." 'We're optimistic9 Harold McCaUum of Modern Equipment Ltd. said the energy situation isn't as serious as people were originally led to believe. "People are becoming acclimatized to the facts of he said. "We're much more optimistic than we were 45-60 days ago. "We're not expecting a boom here, but feel we'll have at least a fair year." "We've had good sales in our January promotion and are reordering units with various be said. He said one line of motor homes the firm over the whole range of sizes average 8.36 miles to the gallon. That's not too bad because people can two couples can go together on a unit for example, he said. A salesman for the firm said the most popular a sells for about A good many motor home and recreation vehicles are sold to air force personnel at the nearby Malstrom Air Force Base, who get 30- days leave a year, and to farmers and retired farmers who like to travel in the winter. "We live in an affluent said Mr. Lalttit. "And we have nine months of winter and three months of summer. I maintain people are going to continue to get out in the winter." The AAA reports weekly on the availability of gas in all areas of the U.S. Meanwhile, motor homes are replaced by cars and motels.