January 24, 2017
Trump revives pipeline projects: Our view
The extended national argument over whether to lay a couple thousand more miles of pipe from oil field to market, in a nation already crisscrossed by tens of thousands of miles of oil pipelines, has long been overwrought. Opponents have exaggerated the environmental risks. Supporters have exaggerated the economic benefits.
President Trump, following through on a campaign promise, came down on the right side of the debate Tuesday by advancing construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, both of which had been blocked by the Obama administration.
Killing the pipelines never made sense. Refusing to build new pipelines, as a way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, is about as logical as halting construction of any more gas stations. Like it or not, America's economy and energy security still depend on petroleum, which powers 250 million vehicles on the nation's highways. Keystone will give the U.S. a significant new supply of oil from a trusted neighbor.
The Obama administration claimed the $8 billion Keystone project was never adequately evaluated, even though officials had scrutinized it for seven years. Environmentalists claimed that exploiting the tar sands oil in Canada that the Keystone project would deliver to Gulf Coast refineries would mean "game over" for the planet.
We’ll keep fighting these dirty projects: Opposing view
But pipeline or no pipeline, the oil was never going to stay in the ground. There were always other pipeline routes, including one already approved by the Canadian government. Or there were trains and tractor-trailers, where the odds of deadly environmental accidents are far worse.
In the case of the mostly completed Dakota Access pipeline, aimed at transporting Bakken oil field crude across the Dakotas and Iowa to Illinois, the Standing Rock Sioux raised concerns over where pipe would cross the Missouri River near their reservation.
After mass demonstrations last fall, the Army Corps of Engineers denied an oil-pipeline easement, effectively killing the project. Now that it is being revived, the the Trump administration would be well-advised to explore whether alternate routes can satisfy the tribe's concerns.
Trump cast the moves as job creators, and that's true in the short term, when thousands of workers will be brought on to lay pipe. But when the projects are completed, virtually all those jobs go away.
For environmentalists, there are far more important fights to pick with a new administration so clearly unconcerned about climate change. These include working to preserve vehicle fuel efficiency standards, promote clean power plants and save the Paris Agreement aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Keystone XL and Dakota Access are neither destroyers of the environment nor saviors of the economy. Sometimes, a pipeline is just a pipeline.
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