Yes, spills happen — but pipelines are still the safest way to move oil

Last week, the Keystone pipeline experienced a leak in Marshall County, South Dakota, resulting in the release of approximately 5,000 barrels of oil. While this is unfortunate and warrants further investigation, the incident does not alter the reality that our country depends on pipelines to transport energy products including crude oil, gasoline and natural gas.

In the wake of the spill, the extreme Left wasted no time attacking pipelines, as millionaire-socialist Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersMellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) Former Sanders campaign manager: Don't expect email list to be shared with DNC Adult film star: Trump and Stormy Daniels invited me to 'hang out' MORE (I-Vt.) tweeted pipelines “must be stopped.” 

This intellectually dishonest and implausible scenario would shutter our nation’s economy, make automotive and flight transportation impossible, and cut our electricity supply by a third. Of course, more than 6,000 daily-use products like medicine, makeup and clothing come from petroleum products too, but those are easily forgotten in the midst of a rhetorical flurry.

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In truth, every single day, hundreds of millions of gallons of petroleum products are shipped across our country on a vast network of more than 2.5 million miles of pipe. Just last week, more than 11 billion gallons of petroleum and petroleum products were safely transported on pipelines on this web reaching communities across the country, to power our homes, schools, hospitals, cars and businesses.

Rail, trucks and barge each play an important role in transporting energy resources, but pipelines are the backbone of our nation’s energy delivery system. Pipelines are the safest, most environmentally sensitive and most cost-effective way to transport petrochemical resources.

Companies that ship through pipelines monitor their lines around the clock using the best available sensors and technology. In this case, TransCanada responded swiftly, shutting down the section of pipe within 15 minutes of detecting a drop in pressure. The company also sprang into action, coordinating with local, state and federal emergency management officials, and dispatching company specialists to assess the incident and clean the spill.

TransCanada is rightly focused on keeping all stakeholders apprised of ongoing developments stating, “the safety of the public and environment are our top priorities and we will continue to provide updates as they become available.”

Thanks to this rapid response, the spill was contained and mitigated. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources noted, “based on what we know now, the spill has not impacted a surface water body.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), Americans use about 20 million barrels of petroleum products a day. The U.S. EIA has projected that U.S. energy consumption will rise 5 percent by 2040, underscoring the ongoing need for our pipeline network.

Nearly all of the time it works seamlessly and without incident. When it does fail energy mid-stream companies are committed to stopping any leak and returning any impacted area to pristine conditions.

The holiday season is here and with it, people across the country will travel to be with friends and family. In fact, AAA projects more than 50 million Americans journeying by one way or another this Thanksgiving. Now if Sanders and others on the extreme left had their way, pipelines would be shut down, and everyone would stay home — or in the senator’s case, presumably Washington, D.C. But the facts of life are different.

While the operation of pipelines typically garners little attention outside of isolated incidents, the access to energy resources that it creates translates into very tangible benefits for American consumers.

Instead of using rare spills as a clarion call to end the use of fossil fuels, policymakers and consumers should work together to improve our nation’s infrastructure so that the energy products we need can continue to reach their destinations safely.

Craig Stevens is the spokesperson for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now, a national coalition focused on promoting key infrastructure investments. Follow the Coalition on Twitter @GAINNowAmerica.