Voy a viajar a Oklahoma

No I don’t really speak Spanish but I’m trying to learn (subject for a future post). So one thing that all the guidelines for learning a language suggest is to try to use the newly acquired language knowledge as frequently as possible, hence the post title I used. (In case you don’t speak Spanish, as I mostly don’t, the title is “I’m going to travel to Oklahoma”, amusingly Spanish mostly omits pronouns so there is no “I” in the title, just the first person singular conjugation of the irregular verb ir).

Anyway this post is about the closest I’m going to come to having a vacation this year, a long drive via Kansas, then Texas and then on to Oklahoma. The first two days will be through boring and desolate country. I’d be a lot happier if we were headed to Spain or Ecuador, but maybe someday I’ll get to see those places.

So why go, doesn’t sound very interesting?

It turns out that in finally getting my mother’s estate settled I now own property in Oklahoma. I own a 25% share in the land and the mineral rights of an 80 acre farm (really a ranch now as it’s only used for grazing cattle) and also I own a 3.6% share in the mineral rights for another 320 acres. These properties were my parents’ original homes, both once active farms, so through a complex title, that took over a year to settle, now these properties pass on to me.

For those of you who don’t know it is possible to own mineral (or sub-surface) rights without owning the land above. So for my dad’s property the land itself was sold long ago but my dad retained the mineral rights. He worked in the oil business and so had the solid dogma of “NEVER sell the mineral rights”. This isn’t a bad idea if one is expecting to pass on those rights to an heir but as I will have no heirs, someday I’ll sell the mineral rights to pay for a nursing home or terminal medical care.

But meanwhile these properties produce income and there is some work associated with that which is the purpose of my trip to Oklahoma. Mineral rights are completely painless and zero-costs to own, much like stock options. Maybe the rights are worth something, maybe they’re not, but other than wanting the one-time money from selling the rights there is no reason to ever relinquish these rights. AND, right now, I’m, in essence, in the dirty energy business, as both properties do have producing oil and gas wells and I get enough checks from those to pay for my own energy use, and, in essence I’m hedged against inflation in energy prices (too bad that’s not true of medical care).

If you don’t know wells pay out, it’s interesting. The well doesn’t actually have to be on your property. Long ago laws were set up to determine who gets what. A well may be on an adjacent property but it’s pumping out “your” oil/gas, so you get some fraction (known as a division order). On one property there is a new well over a mile away. This is the infamous “fracking”, really more accurately known as horizontal drilling. So even though the wellhead is distant the holes drilled underground pass under my property, so I get money.

I never thought I’d ever deal with any of this. My dad hauled me around oil fields and oil projects as a kid but I had no interest in that business (glad I didn’t, it’s a dirty business, not just for the environment, but it’s quite crooked). And after leaving “home” and heading off to college in Massachusetts and then settling for my adult and professional life in Silicon Valley I never imagined I’d ever have anything to do with Oklahoma again, or especially own any property there, or ever be involved in the production of dirty carbon energy resources.

I’m a firm believer in the solid science of global climate change and believe we should end the use of carbon fuels as soon as possible. While I’ll probably be dead before there is a lot of consequence from human-caused climate change directly to me and even though I don’t leave behind any future generation I still believe, for the sake of future generations, we should get off carbon ASAP. It’s doable even with current technology and if we really made a sincere commitment to get off carbon fuels all sorts of new technology could then be developed since there would be an incentive in the market to do R&D. Having spent my whole life inventing the “future” I’m a firm believer in the Silicon Valley notion, “the impossible just takes a little longer” and we can succeed if we’d just ignore the lobbyists and get on with, first admitting, and then solving this problem. Obviously energy storage is the main drawback of renewables and there are a lot more possible solutions for that than making carbon fuels clean (which is a joke, especially “clean coal”, an oxymoron if there ever was one)

I get a little relief to my conscience because the property I own that is also land rights has a nice new wind turbine. As I currently live near some of the best wind resources I never believed Oklahoma was a prime spot for wind development, but actually some spots are. So years ago, much to the delight of my mother, she signed the contract for the turbine on her property. Unlike sub-surface energy wind turbines are a “surface” right so any revenue goes only to actual landowners. There are now lots of (former) farmers in Oklahoma (and even more so in Iowa) that now make far more income from wind than they do from any other use of the land. So, fortunately, some of those people, despite mostly being MAGAs, now have a vested interest in wind power and so, slightly, balance the otherwise carbon-dominated Repugs.

And guess what you ignorant fat blob (DJT), wind turbines don’t cause cancer. And more so, since several times I’ve stood at the base of the wind turbine on my property I have yet to see any dead birds, certainly not “carnage” (what a stupid fool that man is, he probably even believes his lies). And there is little noise even at the base of the tower and the shadows that blades cast are less than trees make. Wind is fine with almost no drawbacks.

But, unfortunately, oil and gas pay more than wind. BUT, wind is forever. When a new oil well is drilled initially there is fairly high production and thus high revenues to the property owner. But oil is not some pool, like an underground lake – it’s trapped in rock, which is why fracking is done to break up that rock and create lots of cracks for oil to slowly ooze out so it can be pumped to the surface. So even after fracking the flow slows down to a trickle. So there is an older oil well, almost next to the wind turbine, and it is so depleted it’s just barely worth extracting the oil (and with lower prices, that well gets shut down since it costs more to produce, from a depleted reservoir, than the oil is worth). So, one good bit of news, for the environment, is that landowners who do get revenue from both wind and carbon will see their carbon revenues decline and the wind revenues probably increase, thus making those people even more fond of clean energy. So actually maybe the political process will work and eventually conservative landowners will increase their support for renewable energy, simply because it puts money in their pocket.

So given it’s a lot quicker to get to El Reno Oklahoma by driving almost due south would I go through a longer and even more desolate route to get there. Well, that’s a long story than will fit in this post but basically I got tricked into taking my stepson on this long drive and, amazingly, he’s actually interested in where my childhood routes are. So, I was born in yellow Texas (of course, it’s horribly mispronounced, amarillo, which growing up there I never knew was Spanish). So we’re going to roam around where I’m from (a long time ago and another place I never thought I’d see again) and where my parents are from (not even a favorite place when as a child my parents hauled me off to visit).

And, of course, there is another crazy part to this. We are headed to the most tornado prone part of the country (way worse than my bit of tornado alley) and in the most severe weather month. I’m driving a car I bought at a discount since it got pounded my hail in the dealer’s lot and, for a while, I hoped to get another bad hail storm and more damage so I could get the insurance to pay for repairs. But after this trip I’m selling that car so more hail bumps will just lower my trade-in price, so I hope we can avoid the weather. A couple of years after I was born Amarillo experienced a bad tornado that came within blocks of my house. Even as a toddler I can still see in my mind the silly thing my parents were doing of one inside and one outside holding the main big living room window to keep it from breaking (had it broken the damage to people would have been a lot worse than a lost window!). So I know bad weather and even though I like watching the fury of thunderstorms (from somewhere safe) I hope to avoid them on this trip, but that’s not very likely.

This is not a vacation I’m looking forward to and the best I can hope for is that it won’t be as bad as it certainly could be. Independently of the boring trip itself be packed in the car for days with two other people is a situation ripe for some unpleasantness.

So wish me luck.


About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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