Was Keystone Blocked to Benefit Buffet?

While our anti-petroleum president is visiting oil and pipeline country in a Potemkin photo op attempt to imply that he is what he clearly is not, here's something to ponder. Are you one of those who've wondered why billionaire, Warren Buffet, is so cozy with the Obama Administration? In an article published a couple of weeks ago by Bloomberg News, which gained little traction, author, Natalie Doss, noted that Buffet had made another one of his "pretty good bets" back in 2009 when Berkshire-Hathaway bought the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad. Doss reports:

Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway's track network puts it among the best-situated of its peers to meet shipping demand for hydraulic fracturing sand, pipe and crude in the northern U.S. Bakken region, where oil production has more than tripled since 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Gains in mineral and chemical carloads helped BNSF pay a $1 billion distribution to Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway last month.

The railroad is the busiest in the U.S. in 2012 by traffic, positioning it to build on a 16 percent jump in 2011 sales that helped narrow the revenue lead of Union Pacific, which lacks tracks into the Bakken area.

"It's kind of like if somebody discovers gold in your back yard but not your neighbor's," said John Anderson, advisory director at Greenbriar Equity Group, a private-equity firm based in Rye, N.Y., focused on the transportation industry. "It's just good luck."

Pretty good bet, hmm? Just good luck, hmm? Let's see, Buffet buys BNSF the first year Obama is president then spends the next two years making nice with the administration, always seeming to have something supportive to say about the new administration's policies, especially regarding tax increases on millionaires. Of course it was merely coincidence that Buffet's new railroad and Canadian Pacific Railway own almost all the tracks into the western North Dakota oil fields which gives BNSF a huge competitive advantage over other major American rail shippers of crude such as Union Pacific. According to the Bloomberg article here's how the experts see it:

Lee Klaskow, a Bloomberg Industries analyst in Skillman, N.J., said the railroad serves about 30 percent of U.S. oil refineries.

It's one of only two major carriers, along with Canadian Pacific Railway, with tracks into the region. That means BNSF can pick up oil from producers and take it to refineries across its 32,000-mile system.

Having a "full service" approach contrasts with Union Pacific's need to exchange carloads with BNSF or Canadian Pacific to move petroleum to refineries on its own network, Klaskow said. Freight that stays on one railroad's system for the full trip is typically more profitable.

Oil and gas-field servicing are "exploding very healthily" for BNSF, said Paul Bingham, economics practice leader at consultant CDM Smith in Arlington, Va. "In the West I think the BN disproportionately benefits from that."

Disproportionately benefits BNSF, indeed, especially as long as construction of the Keystone XL pipeline remains on hold, courtesy of Barack Obama. You see, the pipeline would siphon off much of the oil now being transported in Buffet's tanker cars. According to ProgressiveRailroading.com, we are talking in the hundreds of thousands of barrels per day:

Daily oil production might reach 700,000 barrels by 2013 and 1 million barrels by 2015. BNSF Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific could collectively capture 20 percent to 25 percent of outbound traffic because of their extensive Bakken-area networks and market reach, says BNSF Vice President of Industrial Products Marketing Denis Smith.

And as an editorial at Investors.com noted back in November 2011:

Killing the Keystone XL pipeline may help one of the world's richest men get richer. North Dakota's booming oil fields will now grow more dependent on a railroad the president's economic guru just bought.

Investors compared the situation to Obama's killing American offshore exploration and production while providing Petrobras, Brazil's government oil company with a two billion dollar loan from the U.S. Import-Export bank to expand that nation's offshore oil exploration. Purely by coincidence, that loan and the president's actions came shortly after another of Obama's favorite billionaires, George Soros, significantly increased his holdings in Petrobras to more than one million shares according to Forbes.com. I'm probably more cynical than most AT readers but even the diehard Pollyanna's reading this should be  at least somewhat suspect that our president can be bought and that his policies are formulated to benefit his billionaire benefactors and not the nation as a whole.

Or the environment, which supposedly was our supposedly green president's primary concern, that a pipeline could not be approved until assurances were made that no environmental harm could occur. This quote from a January 20th CBS Money Watch report pretty much proves that to be a red herring:

Wayde Schafer, a North Dakota spokesman for the Sierra Club, said Obama's decision was appropriate though oil that would have moved on the pipeline will be transported by environmentally riskier rail or trucks

"There is no question that oil by rail or truck is much more dangerous than a pipeline, but then again, you have to have adequate time and you have to site a pipeline appropriately or you're just asking for trouble," Schafer said.

Well, if the Sierra Club is satisfied with the president's green credentials, I suppose we should be too. Considering the amount of green Obama's Keystone decision is pumping into Berkshire-Hathaway's filling vaults, I'd wager Warren Buffet thinks Obama's pipeline policy is as green as it gets.

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