The invention of cars, planes and other vehicles, along with major growth in technology around the world has dramatically affected he world economy with regards to fossil fuels. Whereas not too long ago oil was almost useless, it how fuels everything from lawnmowers to spaceships. As the demand for oil rises, governments round the world look for ways to make its delivery more efficient nd cost-effective for consumers.
One such method of delivery is he controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. Critics and protesters of the pipeline abound, but these people do not realize one thing — it may just be the safest and most efficient way for the United States to transport oil.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, also known as the Bakken Pipeline, is an underground pipe 30 inches in diameter that will be used to transport oil from the northwestern portion of North Dakota to Illinois. This pipeline is gaining attention because of protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmentalist groups who believe the pipeline poses a major threat to water sources and farmland. The Dakota Access Pipeline, however, is by no means the first of its kind in the United States, nor will it be the last. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, there are al- ready 2.5 million miles of pipelines in the country.
With the vast number of extent pipelines, as well as the ongoing need to build more, the safety of these pipelines and the environment surrounding them has been a major concern of the U.S. government. In order to improve the safety of the pipeline system, the PHMSA was formed as part of the Department of Transportation as a means to monitor, regulate and improve the transportation of oil and other hazardous materials within the U.S. By enforcing strict regulations and researching ways to make pipelines more secure, the PHMSA has “reduced the risk of pipeline incidents with death or major injury by about ten percent every three years.” According to the PHMSA, “A person in the U.S. is three times as likely to be killed by lightning as by hazardous materials accidents in transportation.” With the work the PHMSA has been doing, the Dakota Access Pipeline will actually be safer than the other two and a half million miles of pipeline that already exist.
A large advantage of the Dakota Access Pipeline is that, with efficient means of transporting oil from North Dakota throughout the United States, the country can greatly reduce its dependence on foreign oil. The area of the world where the most oil is available right now, and where much of the oil in the United States comes from, is the extremely volatile Middle East. In the Middle East, oil causes issues that are far worse than the environmental concerns held by pipeline opponents in the United States. As demand for oil from the Middle East increases, so does war and strife among innocent civilians. If protesters were able to end the work being done to become more independent with regards to oil, the United States would simply continue buying more and more from countries that use the funds to buy weapons and wreak havoc. The existence of oil in the Middle East has brought about corruption worldwide, and unless the U.S. finds some way to become less reliant on the oil in the Middle East, there will never be an end to the crises there.
Even with the oil from the Middle East, demand for oil will continue increasing until the oil
in the Middle East is no longer enough. At this point, the oil in North Dakota will still be used
— only, instead of transporting it underground with a high degree of safety, it would be transported via freight trains and tanker trucks, which are far less safe from an environmental viewpoint. Despite the claims of pipeline opponents, pipelines are actually much less likely to have an accident than trains or oil tankers. While it is true that a pipeline disaster is more catastrophic than most accidents involving freight trains or tankers, pipeline accidents occur with far less frequency. With regards to transporting oil via truck, Pro-Publica reporter Lena Groeger states, “Oil pipelines are roughly 70 times as safe as trucks, which killed four times as many people (from 2005 through 2009), despite transporting only a tiny fraction of fuel shipments.” As for train accidents, some of the worst oil disasters in history resulted from derailments. In 2013, a train trans- porting oil derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people— more than any pipeline disaster ever. Moreover, train accidents are extremely frequent. Statistics from the National Transportation Safety Bureau show that some kind of accident involving a train takes place nearly every two hours. According to Oilprice.com, with regards to human death and property destruction, trucks are more dangerous than trains, which are more dangerous than pipelines, which are more dangerous than boats. Because a ship cannot transport oil from North Dakota to Illinois, a pipeline is the best option.
In an ideal world, issues like that of the pipeline would not exist. The world has discovered methods of generating clean energy that could potentially end the dependence on oil forever, but world politics and general obstacles prevent the United States from completely transferring to clean energy any time soon. Eventually, the world will be ready to abandon oil for good, but for now, it appears as though the need for oil is here to stay. Until a time when oil is no longer a necessity, realism dictates that the country finds the safest, most efficient method to transport oil — and for now, that method is the Dakota Access Pipeline.