Since announcing my candidacy for governor last year, I have promoted the idea of building an oil refinery that is owned and operated here in North Dakota.
I am not looking to fund a study of the issue, as The Forum's May 11 editorial implied. Let me set the record straight and be clear on why I promote the idea of an oil refinery that is North Dakota built and operated.
First and foremost, the people and the economy of North Dakota will benefit.
High-paying jobs, a broader tax base and higher royalty prices for owners who are forced to sell at a discount are three reasons why building a refinery here is a good idea. We have an energy research center at the University of North Dakota second to none in the world that can be a partner in creating an environmentally safe refinery.
We sell crude oil below wholesale, send it out of state for refining and then the oil companies sell it back to us at higher than average retail prices. This does not make sense. It is time for North Dakota to share in the full range of the profits in this industry.
Building a refinery is an economically wise investment in our future. It could be privately owned, state owned, tribally owned or owned in partnership. This isn't about raising taxes. It's about doing what is best for the taxpayers and making the right deal to benefit North Dakota.
Maybe the most important issue to consider in this debate is vision. We must consider new approaches to economic development, rather than the business-as-usual model favored by Gov. John Hoeven's administration.
The American Crystal Sugar Co. is an example. The company combines all aspects of production from growing the beets, to refining, packaging and marketing the product. Each phase of the process adds value and profits to the others. This cooperative has become the largest producer of sugar products in the United States.
Yes, there are issues that need to be resolved in building a refinery; cost, location and building the necessary supply routes are others. I see these as challenges to solve, not obstacles to slow us down or stop us.
There will be people who object to new ways of thinking and doing things. But North Dakotans have a proven track record of confronting obstacles and achieving success.
We now have the largest oil reserve in the lower 48 states. Someone is going to build an oil refinery to process that oil. We can and should be the ones to do it.
It is a matter of bold leadership.
Mathern, D-Fargo, is the Democratic-NPL-endorsed candidate for governor. He has served District 11 since 1989. He is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee