- Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 09:33
- Published on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 09:33
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Most people don’t know it, but there is a major oil pipeline very close to where we live. It runs through both Stafford County and Fredericksburg and is called the Plantation Pipeline. It supplies refined oil products to airports and the military. The pipeline starts in Louisiana and runs over a thousand miles through several states. By pipeline standards this a fairly large line. But there is nothing unusual about it.
There are nearly 55,000 miles of large scale pipelines in the United States carrying oil, both crude and refined products, as well as natural gas. That leads to the question. When it comes to the debate about the Keystone XL pipeline, which will be about as big as the Plantation line, what’s the big deal?
Just as a quick bit of background, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will run from Canada to the Midwest so it can connect with several large U.S. oil refineries. What’s being proposed isn’t so much a new line as really a replacement of existing lines with pipelines that cover a new and more direct route. However, it’s become a lightning rod for environmentalists. The thing is, while I generally consider myself strongly pro-environment, this time, their arguments aren’t all that strong and maybe this is one situation where it might be better to go ahead with the project.
What bothers a lot of people is that the Keystone XL pipeline connects to facilities that are obtaining oil from tar sands in Canada. Many in the environmental movement don’t like this approach to synthesizing oil. They consider it damaging to the environment and they see the pipeline as just perpetuating it. In terms of expanding our carbon footprint they think it’s a terrible idea. The administration, however, for all practical purposes, is taking no position at all. Canada wants the line built and is putting pressure on the U.S. State Department to give the go ahead for the project. However, President Obama, while nodding in the direction of those opposed to the project hasn’t said he supports it either. When the U.S. does make a decision, if it ever does, it will probably be after the election.
But there are even larger issues at stake in this discussion. America has been dependent on oil from overseas, primarily from countries that openly despise us, since the 1950’s. Now, thanks to fracking, certainly not popular with many, and oil from Canadian tar sands, America stands to be a net exporter of oil within the next few years. The effect of this, and the benefit it offers to our national security and our economy, is hard to overstate.
Also, no one has made a strong argument that the Keystone XL is any more environmentally damaging than any other pipeline. What’s more, it will probably be safer. It will be newer than any other line and its construction will probably be more closely monitored than most pipeline projects. That’s because it’s gotten so much attention. What’s more, there is a big demand for this oil. If the Keystone isn’t built, then the only alternative Canada will have is to sell it to Japan, Korea or China. That wouldn’t be efficient, certainly wouldn’t help the United States and until someone can make a compelling argument against the line, it’s better to just stop arguing, keep the oil here at home and go ahead and build it.
—Reach David Kerr at