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Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
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Frank Bernheisel
Posted 01.21.12
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL

Build the pipeline, but...

Many environmentalists, including Thom Hartman, have worked against the Keystone Pipeline and applauded President Obama's decision not to approve it. This disapproval was conditional and would be reviewed after the environmental studies are complete.

The map shows the routes of the existing pipeline -- the red line -- and the proposed new pipeline. There are a couple other existing pipelines shown and there are hundreds of pipelines crossing the U.S. In fact the blue pipeline in Montana along the Yellowstone River is the pipeline that was broken and spilled oil last July.

chart

Now Exxon Mobil, which owns the pipeline, says that they are going to bury the pipeline deeper where it crosses the river so it won't rupture again.

So why wasn't it buried deeply in the first place?

Because the companies like Exxon Mobil and BP try to minimize first costs and gamble that nothing bad will happen. Then there is the lack of enforcement of all those job-killing regulations -- but we won't go there.

Many non-environmentalists, farmers, and others opposed the new pipeline – the dotted line -- because it goes right across the Midwest's largest aquifer, which supplies drinking water for cities and irrigation for farmers. Many of these people would like to see the pipeline built but not across the aquifer. Looking at the map any detour around the aquifer would raise the cost. But that would also mean more jobs.

So why build the pipeline in the first place?

The U.S. needs oil and Canada is its biggest and closest supplier. Closer has fewer national security issues. Gulf Coast refineries need the crude. However, tar sands oil has a high environmental impact but it will be extracted and if it does not come to the U.S. it will be shipped to China and India, via a pipeline to the port of Vancouver.

Does it make sense to ship Canadian oil to China and ship Saudi oil to the U.S.? That is certainly no environmental ‘free lunch.'

My opinion: The Keystone Pipeline should be built. It should be on an alternate route which has the least possible environmental impact. It should be built to high standards that lower the probability of spills and supervised by regulatory enforcement officials that have the environmental and pipeline engineering expertise. Politics? Yes, right after the election.

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