For anyone who’s been following the Keystone XL debate, it’s by now common knowledge that the 1200-mile pipeline is being touted by proponents of energy independence as an important step forward. It’s also no secret that Keystone XL will create jobs – lots of jobs.
Organized labor has been stepping up pressure on the administration to approve the project, according to organized labor an estimated 100,000 jobs in the construction industry at a time when almost 2,000,000 construction workers are looking for work. Those two arguments help explain why two of three Americans support the project.
But there’s another very important reason approval of the Keystone XL is a good idea – safety.
According to government statistics, pipelines are the safest way to transport energy supplies. The U.S. State Department understands that the U.S. is an oil and gas-dependent country, and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.
America’s 2.6 million miles of pipeline transport over 11.3 billion barrels of crude and refined petroleum product. Adding another pipeline to this grid will not end the preservation of our environment, as some environmentalists are predicting. Pipelines have a 99.999% safety record, making them incontrovertibly the safest method for transporting petroleum products. And as pipelines go, no system in America has contains more advanced safety features than the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Moreover, and despite claims to the contrary, oil sands crude is no different than conventional heavy crude. In fact, according to studies conducted by gas and Canadian groups, Canadian dilbit mixtures have lower corrosivity scores than crude oils from Mexico, Columbia, and California, each transported successfully in the U.S. by pipeline for the last 40 years. Canadian oil sands crude has been safely shipped via pipeline since 1968.
The U.S. has an opportunity to move toward energy independence by green-lighting the remaining portion of Keystone XL. If not, Canada has already made clear that if the U.S. chooses not to avail itself of Canadian energy resources, bitumen would likely find its way to barges at western seaports destined for China. Transportation by pipeline is 530% safer than by rail on a ton-mile of freight basis, and nearly 50,000% safer than truck by the same measure. After more than four years of government studies, it is time to declare Keystone XL fit for duty.
Brigham McCown served as the federal government’s pipeline and hazmat safety chief during the George W. Bush administration. He was most recently part of the Southlake Planning and Zoning Commission and is an attorney with Braumiller Schulz LLP in Dallas, TX.