Port director's view: Transportation network underpins regional development; pipelines are key
This community -- our entire region for that matter -- links complicated transportation networks of passenger, freight, and cargo-handling systems that power the economic vitality of North America's heartland.
This community - our entire region for that matter - links complicated transportation networks of passenger, freight, and cargo-handling systems that power the economic vitality of North America's heartland.
As an organization entrusted with a mission to "bring business to the port and economic development to the region," we often find ourselves touting the benefits of living and working in the Twin Ports - at the nexus of five highly integrated modes of transportation: water, road, rail, air, and pipeline.
Pipelines are a mode of transportation, providing one of the safest, most efficient, and most valuable means of moving petroleum products to customers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and across North America.
With all the criticism being leveled today at Enbridge for its Line 3 Replacement Project, it is easy to overlook how much we rely on petroleum and its byproducts in our everyday lives: to fuel our vehicles and heat our homes; to fertilize and harvest crops; to build roofs and roads; to make eyeglasses, heart valves, children's car seats, and sneakers; and to manufacture components for everything from ambulances, planes, wind turbine blades and computers to tires, bikes, helmets, tents and kayaks.
The Enbridge pipeline system meets more than 80 percent of the refining demand in Minnesota and more than half of the refining demand in the upper Midwest. This Midwest network effectively connects us to Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Canada, and points beyond the Midwest. In turn, those points are connected to us. Heavier grades are used in the production of products mentioned above plus thousands more. Light crude gets refined into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel that make possible the transport of food, workers, schoolchildren, travelers, and tourists.
The Twin Ports economy - reliant upon the tourism, medical, academic, education, and manufacturing sectors - is driven by transportation. Travelers drive or fly hundreds of miles to bike our trails, watch our ships, attend our colleges, and access our regional medical centers. Pipelines and other transportation modes fuel our industrial development.
We need energy. Consumers rely on the product transported by Line 3 every day - even those who don't drive. Yes, there is a large movement toward renewables; but there is still great demand for crude oil here in the U.S. Even with the enthusiastic demand for green energy, the 30-year forecast calls for growth in oil demand.
As a port authority, we are well aware that investing tens of millions of dollars to redevelop aging infrastructure along the working waterfront keeps this region competitive with seaports along our coasts. Likewise, Enbridge's plan to privately spend more than $7 billion to replace and modernize more than 1,000 miles of a 50-year-old pipeline will enable our education, health care, transportation, and tourism industries to continue to flourish for generations to come.
Enbridge has been responsibly operating pipelines in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and across North America for over half a century. So, rather than continuing a very rigorous maintenance program that is disruptive to landowners and the environment to keep this pipeline safely operating at a reduced capacity, let's support Enbridge's efforts to replace Line 3 and ensure the safe, reliable, efficient transportation of oil for decades to come.
Vanta E. Coda II is executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.