Guest commentary: Pipelines beneficial to Illinois

Illinois needs more oil pipelines for two reasons. Pipelines provide a safer and environmentally friendlier way of transporting oil to and through Illinois compared with alternatives like rail or trucks. Pipelines, especially those that permit the extraction of oil in Illinois or that bring oil to refineries in Illinois, provide jobs and contribute to economic growth in the state.

Updating our energy infrastructure to keep pace with a new reality of energy abundance should be a top priority. Modernizing and expanding pipelines generates billions of dollars in capital improvements.

For example, the pipeline that brings Canadian oil to the Wood River refinery in Roxana has provided construction jobs and permanent jobs at the refinery.

Enbridge is tripling the capacity of its existing Line 61 pipeline. This pipeline brings Canadian oil from Superior, Wis., to a point south of Chicago and then on to Oklahoma. This capacity expansion does not involve constructing a new pipeline but only boosting the capacity of the existing pipeline.

Energy Transfer Partners is proposing a pipeline, known at the Bakken Pipeline, to carry oil from North Dakota to Patoka, in southern Illinois. This will provide construction jobs in Illinois and will also contribute to the economic development of southern Illinois.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly for southern Illinois economic development, there is the New Albany shale formation. Companies have begun to exploit the oil and natural gas that can be recovered from southern Illinois. But to capture the benefits, similar to those in North Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere with oil and gas recovery from shale formations, pipelines will be needed. This oil and gas will need to be moved to refineries and processing facilities, and pipelines offer the best option.

Pipelines can be operated safely and are environmentally superior to the alternatives.

It is foolish to think that if pipelines are not built, oil consumption will decrease. That is simply unrealistic. Either more oil will be shipped by rail or truck in the absence of pipelines, an environmentally less attractive option, or we will import more oil from places like Venezuela and the Middle East. The risk of relying on such countries should raise serious concerns.

Canada, on the other hand, will produce oil, and either it will be exported to the U. S. or to somewhere else in the world. Given that choice, we should import any needed oil from Canada. While no transport method is 100 percent, pipelines make the most sense.

We need to weigh realistic options for energy infrastructure and make sure they work as intended, not insist on some wished-for innovation that doesn’t exist. When doing that, oil pipelines look like the most attractive option, and they can contribute to job creation and economic development in Illinois and, particularly, in southern Illinois.

By streamlining the permitting process for pipelines — and avoiding regulatory overreach that raises infrastructure costs without delivering meaningful improvements — we can ensure that Illinois has an energy infrastructure system to match our status as a leading energy producer.