There are a handful of ways to transport oil, gas and similar forms of energy -- rail, barge, truck and pipeline.
Per industry analysis, 99.999 percent of oil and petroleum products moved via pipeline safely reaches its destination. A 2015 study by the Fraser Institute, a public policy think tank, showed that moving energy via pipeline in Canada was 4.5 times safer than moving the same volume across the same distance by rail. Recent research by the U.S. Department of Transportation yielded similar results, showing that pipelines here are more than 450 times safer than rail on a per-mile basis.
“That’s a number that tells a story Nebraskans need to hear,” former Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood said at a recent public hearing in York before the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which will decide whether the Keystone XL pipeline serves the public interest.
I couldn’t agree more, especially in the case of the activists who attended the hearing to contest the privately funded, multi-billion-dollar project, emphasizing how safety was their chief priority.
If that’s so, then the 1,179-mile long pipeline is the way to go.
The pipeline would be safely constructed with high-strength carbon steel and equipped with state-of-the-art spill and mitigation technology. It has passed eight exhaustive independent reviews over a decade-long period, including five by the federal government, and various studies have shown it doesn’t pose a significant threat to groundwater or the atmosphere.
One thing is certain: Canadian and Bakken oil will reach its market regardless if the pipeline is built, through increased use of truck or rail. The volume of oil the pipeline would move daily – about 830,000 barrels – is enough to fill 4,150 trucks or 1,185 railcars, a pair of alternatives that would still present opportunities for accidents or spills and increase vehicular and rail traffic, raising air emissions.
Nebraska also stands to lose economically if the five-member state commission passes on construction.
According to economic data, the pipeline would create and support 42,000 U.S. jobs, including 5,500 in Nebraska. The project would also help keep prices low for families and businesses – especially lower-income families who spend a larger percentage of their disposable income on fuel costs than those in other income brackets – and provide a much-needed, $1.8 billion shot in the arm for Nebraska school and government services via increased tax revenue.
In all, the pipeline would contribute more than $20 billion to the U.S. economy. Many of these benefits have already materialized in states and communities where the original Keystone pipeline is located. In seven years, the Keystone Gulf Coast pipeline – XL’s southern half – has injected billions into local economies throughout Texas and Oklahoma after delivering more than 600,000 barrels per day of the same oil its northwestern add-on would deliver.
Time is ticking. The U.S., per a 2015 analysis, has already lost more than $175 billion in economic activity because of politicians kicking the can down the road for almost a decade on the pipeline. That figure has obviously worsened since.
Now is the time for Nebraska – and America – to get back what it has lost by fortifying its position as an environmental stalwart and doing what should have been done long ago: approving Keystone XL.