Pipeline hate is misplaced
At the age of 16, Swedish student Greta Thunberg admonished global leaders at last year’s United Nations: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
But it’s her parents who are daring. Why terrorize children with fairy tales of mass extinction?
When faced with a choice between easy rhetoric and actual science-based reductions in greenhouse emissions, green activists opt for emotional grandstanding.
So it was no surprise when Greta visited American Indian reservations in the Dakotas to condemn two pipeline projects.
One of them, Keystone XL, would traverse under South Dakota as it brings Canadian crude oil to Nebraska. The other, Dakota Access, would increase the amount of oil flowing through an existing underground pipeline between North Dakota and Illinois.
Activists insist on scaring Greta, rather than acknowledging that pipelines are in the environment’s best interest.
Transporting oil underground generates over 75 percent less greenhouse gas than transporting it by train.
It is also far safer. Spills are over four times more likely to occur via rail than a pipeline. More than 99 percent of pipeline accidents do no harm to the environment.
During the Obama and Trump administrations, Keystone XL passed six different environmental assessments determining the project was safe. Dakota Access twice received the “green” light from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In the environmental fantasy sold to Ms. Thunberg, all oil and gas production gets shut down immediately in favor of clean energy and renewables. Unfortunately, that would result in the very mass extinction she has been taught to fear. Well into the foreseeable future, there is no way to power the global economy without some greenhouse emissions.
In fact, behind the biggest source of reduced emissions over the past decade has been the increase in the production of natural gas, which has replaced older, dirtier coal in electricity generation plants nationwide.
I suspect Ms. Thunberg may one day look back and wonder why she was told that economic growth was evil.
Five months after operations began, Dakota Access added $43 million to North Dakota’s state coffers. Soon after that, the state collected an additional $250 million in tax revenue. And during construction, the pipeline generated roughly 12,000 jobs.
If allowed to move forward, Keystone XL will yield similar benefits. The pipeline is projected to create 20,000 jobs and yield $6.5 billion in worker income during construction. The project would add $20 billion to local economies.
Pipeline projects like Keystone XL and Dakota Access will bring environmental and economic benefits. That is, unless green activists stand in the way. How dare they.
Michael James Barton is the founder of Hyatt Solutions and previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon.