Jan 06, 2016 - 3:45pm

In Wake of Keystone XL, Activists Ignore Facts, Target Pipelines and Other Energy Infrastructure

Senior Editor, Digital Content


Pipelines in Cushing, Ok.

The struggle over building energy infrastructure didn’t end with President Barack Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline in 2015. In fact, the president emboldened ideologues to fight against abundant and useful fossil fuels by going after energy infrastructure.

As this Washington Post story shows, these activists are so driven by ideology that they want to shut down an oil pipeline running under the Great Lakes that has been safely transporting oil for 50 years:

Each day, some 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids roar through en route from the shale oil wells of Alberta to refineries in Detroit and Sarnia, Ontario.

The pipes, known as Line 5, are 20 inches in diameter, with one-inch-thick walls. On that line, they have never had a spill, a rupture or, to hear its Calgary, Alberta-based owner Enbridge tell it, even a repair. It also wasn’t a secret: The state of Michigan granted the underwater easement in 1953, and a few old-timers here even remember helping build and install it.

Facts and history don’t register well for some. One local resident opposed to the pipeline told The Post, “They need to reroute this because they cannot prove to us they can continue to safely pump oil through this area.” Apparently 50 years of safe operation isn’t proof enough.

Attacks on energy infrastructure are part of a multi-level strategy by anti-energy activists. If they can’t stop oil, natural gas, or coal from being developed—the “keep it in the ground” strategy--then they do what they did to the Keystone XL pipeline: Demonize infrastructure projects to keep energy from getting to consumers.

We saw a taste of this in 2014 when hydraulic fracturing opponents dubbed their fight against a liquefied natural gas terminal under construction in Maryland as “the Keystone fight of the east.” Thankfully, they didn’t stop the federal government from approving the project.

Whether it’s in the Southeast with the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline or in the Midwest with the Sandpiper Pipeline, fossil fuel opponents see the Keystone XL fight as their model.

on Twitter

Pro-energy supporters aren’t taking this lying down. In his State of American Energy speech, American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard pushed back against anti-fossil fuel activists:

The demonization of the Keystone XL pipeline remains a powerful cautionary tale of the dangers of energy policy driven by ideology rather than economic reality and has a chilling effect on expansion efforts for our nation’s energy infrastructure. That’s not just bad national energy policy. It is also bad news for our nation’s economy.

According to an IHS study, the amount of energy sector infrastructure needed through the middle of the next decade could spur $1.15 trillion in private capital investment. IHS also projects that infrastructure investment could support more than 1.1 million jobs nationally, contribute $120 billion to U.S. gross domestic product and increase revenues to government by more than $27 billion through 2025.

Gerard noted how inadequate infrastructure is already hurting energy users in the Northeast:

The [Energy Information Administration] estimated that New England residents paid up to 69 percent more for their electricity than the national average last winter, and that the industrial sector paid up to 90 percent more for its electricity than the national average – in part because of infrastructure limitations.

One of many facts ignored by activists is that fossil fuels will be used for decades to come. The Energy Information Administration projects that by 2040 oil, natural gas, and coal will provide 80% of America’s energy needs—barely changing from 81% in 2013.

We possess abundant vast quantities of energy. Through innovation and entrepreneurship, the U.S. energy conversation now emphasizes abundance instead of scarcity. But we won’t be able to take full advantage of that blessing if fact-barren fanatics block energy infrastructure projects that keep American energy from going to where it’s needed.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.