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Guest Commentary: Pipeline a safe source

Fri, Mar 29th, 2013
Posted in Spring Valley Commentary

By Dan Terbeest, Spring Valley

I have read several letters against the Keystone XL pipeline. I am having trouble seeing why we should not build it. Some of the arguments make it sound like this is something new and we don’t understand the technology well enough to manage it safely. If that was the case, which it isn’t, and I will address this later, then we should not proceed with alternative energy either. If we can’t safely build a pipeline then we can’t safely build a windmill or harness solar, or for that matter make ethanol. We all know we are moving ahead with alternatives regardless of the risk. I am not saying alternatives don’t have a future but they are not ready to replace oil at this time, especially when they oil is so plentiful and the alternatives are so expensive. Windmills to produce electricity are fine but when the electricity they produce is 3 to 4 times more expensive than coal powered electricity even with huge tax subsidies, should we be thinking we have found our solution to fossil fuels? Not in my opinion. Batteries for hybrids are very expensive and very toxic to dispose of. These are problems too. As we build small, lighter cars we will be using more and more plastic, where does plastic come from? Oil! Solar panels use a lot of plastic. Many of our cutting edge pharmaceuticals are derived from petrochemicals. We are never going to wean ourselves from oil totally. There is a school of thought that says if we don’t build this pipeline this tar sand oil will stay in the ground. This line of thought is flawed. If the Canadians don’t sell it to us it WILL go somewhere else, probably China, to get refined. How environmentally friendly is that? Haul it by rail or truck or maybe pipeline, to the ocean, then ship it across the Pacific to be refined, and then some of it may end up back in the USA. Doesn’t it make much more sense to transport it by pipeline to a US refinery, maybe using solar or windmill produced electricity to pump it in the pipeline? We know how to extract this oil; it is going to be refined. If we don’t do it the Chinese will and we will do it in an environmentally responsible way, much safer than if the Chinese will. The Genie (tar sand oil) is out of the bottle, there is no putting her back now.

This pipeline is not new at all. There are over 300,000 miles of natural gas pipeline in the US, http://www.eia.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/analysis_publications/ngpipeline/index.html

There is an estimated 95,000 miles of oil pipeline in the US, http://www.pipeline101.com/overview/crude-pl.html I put these links in so you can check it out yourself, I am not pulling numbers out of the air. That is enough pipeline to get to the moon and back! After building this many miles of pipeline we should know how to make it as safe as possible. Can we guarantee it won’t ever leak? Probably not, but can we guarantee the alternatives won’t ever have a disaster either? Probably not. Why does the conventional, tried and true method have to hold up to a higher standard than something we don’t know as much about? That wouldn’t be fair and fairness is used to justify everything today.

Another point I would like to make is after the events on 9/11 (both of them) we should be doing everything we can to become energy independent of the Middle East. Why are we stifling our own domestic production and buying oil from people that think of us as “infidels”? There is no common sense in limiting out own domestic production. Once again, how “green” is it to bring oil from halfway around the world when we can drill right here? I am not against alternatives, but they are not ready to be rolled out on a scale to be seriously considered true alternatives yet. Our government spent a billion dollars to prop up solar and electric (Solyndra and Fiskar) and that was a disaster. Suntech, a Chinese solar panel maker just defaulted on a 500 million dollar loan last week. When government tries to pick winners it makes all of us losers. Maybe their time is coming but not in the foreseeable future. Let the private sector finance these experimental forms of energy, when they are perfected then we should put government money into them. The government has put a lot of money behind pet projects when there might be other alternatives that might be better. I would like to see diesel engines factory built to run on vegetable oil, rather than spend a lot of money to convert them. Why aren’t we building cars that are just small scale locomotive engines, diesel powered generators powering an electric motor for each drive wheel? It seems a lot simpler and more reliable than these hybrids that use electric motors to assist acceleration and need computers to control everything. CO2 scrubbers are something you don’t hear a lot about that might be a solution too. These devices filter out CO2 from the air and the trapped carbon can be recycled for many different uses. The “green” crowd doesn’t like them because they have the potential to allow us to clean up coal plants and make fossil fuels more attractive.

We can drill oil safer and “greener” than anyone in the world. We should be doing it. Transporting by pipeline would be much “greener” than hauling by rail or truck. I said it before, the Genie is out of the bottle, and did anyone ever use their wish to put the Genie back in the bottle? We might as well make the most of it and wish for a pipeline, it’s a better option than any of the alternatives.

I would suggest you write your congressmen too. My personal experience with email to congress people is not good. Sen. Klobachar never responded, Sen. Franken gave a generic response and added me to his email list, and Rep. Walz gave me a typical political, talk around the subject response, without really answering the question I had.

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