The debate about the Dakota Access Pipeline is typical of issues that have a lot of emotion attached to it. Anyone who has been associated with closing a school knows this process. Claims are made about the project or idea that are not accurate or capture the reason for the change. In the end cooler heads prevail by sorting out what is real and what is not. On the Dakota Access Pipeline, some claim that Iowans will not benefit from this pipeline. The facts simply do not support this claim.
Everyone agrees that roads create numerous public benefits. This was true even when they were built and maintained by private, for-profit companies right here in Iowa. To facilitate travel and commerce (primarily by connecting farms to markets) throughout rural Iowa, the second General Assembly in the late 1840s authorized private companies to build plank roads. The public benefit was so obvious that the General Assembly passed legislation aimed at allowing construction to proceed smoothly, mandating that the roads be built and disputes over compensation settled later by a state board. Even from the earliest days of our statehood, infrastructure was viewed as a public imperative.
The fact is that Americans and Iowans alike have a long history of saving public dollars by trusting the private sector to build critical transportation and energy infrastructure. From early wagon roads to railroads to the electrical grid to oil and gas pipelines, public benefits have been widely accepted even though the builders, owners and operators have been private-sector businesses. Today the federal government has even turned to the private sector to handle travel to outer space.
The public benefit, however, reaches far beyond efficient development of the infrastructure that we need. There will be a significant number of jobs created by the project. Construction jobs up to 4,000 in Iowa will see small towns all along the path benefit from added business. Construction means building something and eventually it gets built and then laborers hopefully move to another construction job. This is a great job for many construction workers that pays very well and utilizes their skills.
Another public benefit that is less obvious, but should provide confidence in the proper construction, operation, and environmental care. The company is investing $3.8 billion in this project. This company currently operates more than 70,000 miles of pipelines throughout the country. They have the experience and technological investments that many infrastructure projects do not. These factors combine to make modern, state-of-the-art pipelines like Dakota Access — by far — the safest way for our nation to transport the fuel that it needs from places like North Dakota to consumers throughout the Midwest and beyond.
The United States is now the largest oil and natural gas producer in the world. The bulk of the new production is taking place in North Dakota and other places that need the infrastructure to safely and efficiently transport it to where it is needed. Ready supply is among the largest factors driving the cost of fuel. Our state relies heavily on affordable petroleum products, like diesel fuel for its agricultural economy, and this project helps stabilize and keep the price of crude oil competitive.
The public benefits of the Dakota Access Pipeline are numerous and important. The project can help secure a brighter future for all Iowans and Americans.
Ed Wiederstein serves as the Chairman of the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a coalition dedicated to investing in infrastructure projects throughout the Midwest to secure and strengthen the region’s economy. He lives in Audubon. Comments: [email protected]