Efforts to reduce America’s use of traditional carbon-based energy such as coal, oil, and natural gas go beyond regulations aimed at increasing the cost of development and use of these fuels. Environmental activists and their political allies are also targeting infrastructure projects — like the Dakota Access Pipeline — that transport natural resources from extraction locations to processing facilities. In addition, activists are blocking pipelines that would carry natural gas to utilities and they are also blocking the shipment of natural resources at export terminals.
In the U.S. alone, there are 190,000 miles of pipelines that carry crude oil and liquid petroleum products across the country. There are just over 300,000 miles of transmission pipelines that carry natural gas within and between states. That does not include the 2.1 million miles of distribution pipelines that bring natural gas to homes and businesses.
The push to block energy infrastructure construction projects is exacerbating the existing oil pipeline shortage in western states, at a time when shale oil production in North Dakota is booming. Without additional pipeline capacity, more oil will be transported to refineries through riskier methods such as rail and roadways. Additionally, blocking energy infrastructure is preventing economic growth that would result from oil pipeline construction projects, and is hampering the ability of the U.S. to gain energy independence. In fact, the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline is estimated to create between 8,000 and 12,000 jobs and $156 million in tax revenue.
Politicization exaggerates pipeline risk
The politicization of spills and accidents exaggerates the real-world risk of transporting oil and natural gas by pipelines
The Colonial Pipeline, for example, transports gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from Texas to New York. Recent incidents at the Colonial Pipeline, including an explosion in Shelby County, Alabama, that killed one worker, are fueling political pressure to stop additional oil and natural gas pipeline construction. Yet the explosion was caused by construction workers who accidentally broke the pipe and ignited the fuel.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., used the accident in Alabama to urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to delay a natural gas pipeline construction project in Massachusetts.
Pipelines are the safest way to transport oil and natural gas
Transporting crude oil and refined petroleum products comes with some risk, but in comparison with other transport methods, pipelines are the safest. The concerns about pipeline safety have to do with environmental damage from spills and leaks and personal injury from accidents.
A study based on 10 years of data in Canada by the Frasier Institute found that transporting oil and natural gas through pipelines was 4.5 times safer by rail after adjusting for the volume and distance.
The American Petroleum Institute and the Association of Oil Pipe Lines found that oil and petroleum products were delivered safely via pipelines 99.99 percent of the time in 2013. Moreover, almost 75 percent of pipeline incidents do not affect the environment since they occur at handling and processing facilities.
An analysis of pipeline safety and accident data records from the U.S. Department of Transportation by The Manhattan Institute concluded that pipelines carrying oil, petroleum products, and natural gas are safer than by road transportation or rail shipping when it comes to spills and personal injury. Road transportation carried the greatest risk followed by rail with pipeline being the safest by a significant margin.
Indeed, pipeline accidents are extremely rare. In fact, there is a greater chance for Americans to be killed by lightning than from a pipeline accident.
Protests in action: Activism against the Dakota Access Pipeline
A variety of protesters including radical environmentalists, clergy, and Native Americans have objected to an energy infrastructure project called the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Construction of the $3.7 billion, 1,172-mile project will transport about 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois by cutting across South Dakota and Iowa. The pipeline will reduce the amount of crude oil currently being transported by rail and trucks.
Native Americans oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline on environmental and cultural grounds. They are concerned it will both damage their reservation’s water supply and violate the sanctity of their land.
However, most of the pipeline route is being built on private land, and will avoid cutting through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The pipeline route is being built north of the reservation. Although the land is privately owned, the tribe considers the territory part of its ancestral land.
The anti-pipeline protest efforts have resulted in property damage and arrests. Since August, 411 people were arrested as a result of anti-pipeline protests.
Arsonists set fire to construction equipment in Iowa in three separate locations causing at least $1 million in damage over the summer. A second incident occurred in October where fires damaged heavy construction equipment caused and about $2 million in damages in Reasnor, Iowa.
More recently, Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were arrested at the North Dakota state Capitol for holding a sit-in and causing the building to be shut down.
Despite the increasing intensity of the protests, the project is 70 percent complete.
Dr. Tom Borelli is a contributor to Conservative Review. As a columnist he has written for Townhall.com, The Washington Times, Newsmax magazine, and also hosts radio programs on SiriusXM Patriot with his wife Deneen Borelli. Dr. Borelli has appeared on numerous television programs on Newsmax TV, Fox News, Fox Business and TheBlaze. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
This article originally appeared on ConservativeReview.com.
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