Local View: Safe pipelines like Line 3 are Christmas every day for environmentalists
America is on the move, and oil is on the move in America; 10 million barrels of oil a day move to 115 refineries. And 70 percent of U.S. oil (97 percent in Canada) moves through pipelines because they are more efficient (two to three times cheaper), are safer, and have a much lower carbon footprint than trains, tanker trucks, barges, and ships.
During the next few decades, expect that pipelines will continue to dominate the energy-transportation scene — unless a radical, new, safer, greener, cheaper method of oil transport comes along. No such idea is on the horizon, however.
Moving oil by train can have consequences to human life that are almost never seen in pipelines. A 2013 crash of 72 oil cars in Quebec left 47 dead.
Moving oil by barge or tanker ship can be costly to clean up if something goes wrong and is environmentally unattractive. The total cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill ended up costing $630 per gallon.
The average cost of an oil-spill cleanup in the U.S. is $18.11 per gallon. Pipeline spills cost even less because they are not typically driven miles by wind, and they don't kill clusters of riparian marine life. Pipeline leaks are small, fast to find, and seldom involve a risk to human life.
Oil-transportation spills are a fact of life, like traffic accidents. Spills from pipelines are fewer, generally smaller, faster to clean up, and less environmentally damaging than spills from other ways of moving oil. Unlike with those other ways, pipeline leaks rarely catch on fire, and you aren't likely to see a burning pipeline blocking a major highway or threatening a school.
We have been hearing a lot about oil-train derailments, crashes, and fires since 2013. This is because from 2009 to 2012 the volume of oil shipped by rail increased from 11,000 to 230,000 railcars — up 2,200 percent. According to Forbes, more crude was spilled from rail cars in 2013 than in all the 37 previous years combined.
And yet, spectacularly, green and safe projects like the proposed Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project are being opposed and delayed.
A rail tank car carries about 30,000 gallons of oil. A 100-car oil train can deliver about 3 million gallons to a refinery and then return empty to the oil field. That's not a very green process.
The Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project promises to deliver nearly 32 million gallons of oil per day, or 760,000 barrels.
According to Enbridge, the replaced pipeline will be able to take 10,000 rail cars off the tracks or 24,000 tanker trucks off the highways — daily. Enbridge is a bit generous with its figures. Actually, since both the trains of railcars and the trucks hauling oil need to drive back across the country empty, burning diesel, the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project would equal a total of 20,000 rail cars off the road daily or 48,000 tanker trucks daily. That should sound like Christmas every day to every environmentalist.
It's time for America to get smart again. Call your state legislators and tell them we need to hand permits to every responsible, competent company that presents a decent environmental impact statement. Let's start with Enbridge and its Line 3 Replacement Project.
And yes, we want the construction jobs. We know they are temporary; but to us, they equal a welcome windfall. And we country folks don't leave money on the table.
Terry Stone is a policy analyst and businessman living in International Falls. He also is chairman of the Koochiching County GOP, chairman of the GOP 9th Judicial District, an executive of the 8th Congressional District GOP, and a member of the Minnesota GOP Central Committee.