Pipelines: Transportation of the Future

Thursday, December 11, 2014
posted by elizabeth @ 10:13 AM

As you know, last week the Senate failed to pass the Keystone XL Pipeline legislation. The vote failed 59-41, missing the filibuster proof 60 votes. We’ll see how the defeat of the legislation affects the re-election efforts of Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana who is fighting for her political life in a run off against Congressman Bill Cassidy. Louisiana knows how important the energy industry is to its economy, just as we know in Texas.
The Keystone XL Pipeline would pipe crude oil from Canada to Nebraska, where it will connect with other pipelines providing essential infrastructure to our country and access to the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. The pipeline will provide construction and manufacturing jobs as well as permanent jobs through the continued growth of the pipeline network. It will contribute to our country’s energy security. As TransCanada has said, it just makes sense to create a stable link from the United States to its most reliable trading partner to the north.
Why the animosity toward Keystone specifically? We already have 2.6 million miles of pipelines in the U.S. (U.S. Department of Transportation, General Pipeline FAQs). Pipelines are critical to our way of life in America. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 91 percent of the energy consumed in the United States comes from fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum. (Renewables make up the other 9 percent, including wind, solar, and hydropower). While most renewables go into producing electricity, oil is our transportation fuel and backbone of our economy. Oil is used to fuel our cars, for heating oil and for thousands of consumer goods such as plastics, tires, deodorants, cell phones, make up and even heart valves.
Did you know the first oil pipeline was constructed in 1862 by Barrows & Company from one of their wells to their refinery in Pennsylvania (Oil History by Samuel T. Pees; and Pipeline Knowledge)? That was just the beginning. During the 1920s, driven by the growth of the automobile industry, total U.S. pipeline mileage grew to over 115,000 miles (Pipeline101.com). Today, “America depends on a network of more than 185,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines, nearly 320,000 miles of gas transmission pipelines, and more than 2 million miles of gas distribution pipelines to safely and efficiently move energy and raw materials to fuel our nation’s economic engine” (Pipeline101.com).
Of course natural gas provides vital energy for our nation. Thanks to the creation of a strong pipeline system, natural gas can easily be transported and used for industrial use, electricity, and transportation. And, with the shale revolution and introduction of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the U.S. is now the leading producer of natural gas. (Russia is number two). We have enough natural gas for our use and to export abroad. LNG exports are expected to generate as much as $86 billion in net benefits to the U.S. economy, according to a recent NERA Economic Consulting study. To export LNG, we need pipelines. Furthermore, we exported $117 billion of refined oil products in 2012. To export oil, we need pipelines.
So, again, why the animosity toward Keystone? Is it safety – personal and environmental? Possibly, but did you know that products shipped via pipeline arrive safely at their destination 99.999% of the time (Pipeline101.com)? That’s a great record. Without pipelines, we could ship oil via rail lines or trucking. But here are some interesting facts by the U.S. DOT, “It would take a constant line of tanker trucks, about 750 per day, loading up and moving out every two minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to move the volume of even a modest pipeline. The railroad-equivalent of this single pipeline would be a train of 75 2,000-barrel tank rail cars every day.” Crazy to think about, huh?
Our pipelines fuel our country. They literally provide the fuel for our existence – to stay warm, to drive cars, allow manufacturing, and the production of consumer goods. We have hundreds of pipelines all over the United States already. Safety is paramount for the industry and for regulators. To keep the U.S. economy strong and continue a vision of forward thinking, we need pipelines.

-Elizabeth Biar

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