At the start of the month, four anti-development extremists were booked for breaking into a fenced area southeast of Grand Rapids, Minn., and attempting to shut off an oil pipeline.
Their reasoning, they said in a statement, was “to take personal responsibility for preventing the dangerous expansion of the oil industry, because governments and regulators have failed to do so.”
What was really dangerous were their actions, which put lives and the environment at risk under the alleged justification that it’s their “right” to speak out and dissent. Targeting critical infrastructure for destruction or industrial sabotage should not be masqueraded as acceptable behavior to express freedom of speech.
It’s flat-out terrorism.
The FBI defines eco-terrorism as "the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature." That’s what this act was.
It was also the latest example in a long string of copycat wrongdoings inspired and financed by deep-pocketed, anti-fossil fuel extremist organizations across the nation, unbeknownst to most Americans.
Just look at the months-long protests that engulfed the Dakota Access Pipeline, in North Dakota, in 2016 and 2017, and the tens of millions of dollars in damage and emergency response services it entailed.
Recall how a group of eco-terrorists, with bolt cutters and hardhats, cut gates and other controlled locks to break into facilities and manually shut off the emergency valves at five different cross-border pipelines, in four states.
Read up on how protesters have tried to derail construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline by sitting up in trees along the project’s permitted and approved routes. More recently, they set heavy equipment on fire in Virginia, leading to about $500,000 in damage.
The examples are endless. So are their methods, which include:
- Threatening, stalking, infringing and attacking neighbors, law enforcement and emergency personnel
- Polluting, vandalizing, trespassing and damaging public and private property
- Disrupting and shutting down essential utilities
- Jumpstarting riots
- Blocking highways and railroads
Each instance put lives, property or both in danger, bullied supporters of sensible energy production and environmental responsibility and ate up hard-to-come-by taxpayer dollars via emergency responders and, in some instances, cleanup efforts and infrastructure repairs.
Imagine if every cause deployed such actions. What state of lawlessness would follow?
The recklessness displayed by these extremists provides a window into the current and increasingly vitriolic debate over pipelines. If these anarchists were successful in their efforts to sabotage energy projects and pipelines, the environment would get worse, not better.
- Fact: Pipelines are the most environmentally safe and efficient way to transport large quantities of oil and natural gas Americans depend on.
- Fact: Pipelines are the best infrastructure for limiting or reducing carbon emissions from still-needed fossil fuels.
- Fact: Overall air quality and our environment continues to improve in the U.S., even as we produce more oil and natural gas, which is increasingly needed to heat homes and meet our most basic daily needs.
Yet energy and pipeline projects remain under increasingly shrill attacks from extremists who offer no actual solution for how Americans will light and warm their homes, produce and power their most essential products, harvest and grow food, manufacture clothes and meet their most basic daily needs in cost-effective and environmentally-friendly ways.
Yes, it’s wonderful to report that renewable energy continues to expand in record pace. Efforts to promote and continue this growth must continue. But not at the expense of natural gas and other cleaner-burning fossil fuels, which will remain the go-to sources of mass energy because we’re still decades away from renewables powering a large portion of our increasing digitalized lives.
In the meantime, we have well-crafted regulations and safety measures in place, established by local, state and federal agencies, to protect our environment, power our communities and allow acceptable first-amendment expression. We also have state-of-the-art technology and well-improved techniques to ensure energy is developed safely and without incident.
Better to produce energy here, under the most stringent set of regulations in the world, then to develop it elsewhere, in far less environmentally conscious nations, then spend a fortune to import it in. Former President Barack Obama said so himself.
Not enough Americans know this.
That’s why we need more conversations about how we can draw on conservation and efficiency to grow our economy, meet our essential energy needs, continue our strong environmental progress and ensure our nation's security. Pitting the environment against energy doesn’t offer any solutions nor does it further any cause — except destroying the very environment extremists claim to be protecting.
David Holt is president of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA).
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