We in the Midwest are proud to be at the tip of the spear when it comes to expanding the role of renewable energy in the United States. But even as these sources of energy grow, the reality is that today’s economy runs on fossil fuels, and it will for quite some time.
Given this fact, it’s vital that we select the safest and most efficient methods through which the energy that we rely upon can be moved from its extraction point to consumers nationwide.
Pipelines are the best way to move crude oil and other hazardous liquids. When compared to other methods of transport – whether railcars, trucks, or barges – pipelines operate far more efficiently and are drastically less prone to incident.
Pipeline infrastructure positioned to move resources from the Bakken region is currently lacking. Given the rapid expansion of development in that region, pipeline capacity simply hasn’t yet caught up to demand. As a result, energy must utilize other avenues of transport, most frequently rail.
The upsurge in rail transport of crude oil has been dramatic. Five years ago, rail carriers in the United States moved just over 20,000 barrels of oil per day. Today, railcars carry more than a million barrels of crude per day, according to the United States Surface Transportation Board.
This exponential increase has led to a commensurate growth in the amount derailments, spills, and even explosions associated with crude oil trains. Federal statistics from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) show that more oil was spilled by railcars in 2013 – 1.1 million gallons – than in the previous forty years combined (792,600 gallons).
As the Wall Street Journal recently noted, crude oil trains operate as “virtual pipelines,” often more than a mile long and carrying thousands of barrels of oil apiece while traveling at high speeds on the nation’s busiest railways. They cross busy intersections, travel through heavily populated areas, and often sit unnoticed for hours or days at rail yards. And towns often don’t even know when or how often crude oil trains pass through.
Countless trains of this nature cross through communities in the four states crossed by Dakota Access. And as recent derailments in Dubuque, Iowa and Fayette County, West Virginia indicate, they are prone to accidents.
Dakota Access will take crude oil off of the rails and roads, allowing it to more safely reach the consumers that rely upon affordable crude oil each and every day.