Op-ed – “Pipeline Paralysis: The left’s latest fossil fuel obstruction tactic”

The Hill recently featured an op-ed highlighting current efforts and tactics from environmental activists to thwart pipeline projects across the country. The op-ed was written by Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with Texas’ Institute for Policy Innovation. Matthews emphasizes the important role of the energy industry in the US’ growing economy. He includes impressive statistics reported by the US Energy Information Administration regarding oil production, writing:

U.S. crude oil production is growing by leaps and bounds, topping out at 11.7 million barrels per day in November — about twice what it was in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). And the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects the U.S. will account for about 75 percent of the growth in global oil production over the next six years.

Matthews highlights that with this boom in oil production comes a significant pipeline bottleneck, most notably in Texas’ Permian Basin. He notes that producers have had to turn to rail to keep up with transporting the record amount of oil being produced. The op-ed features comments from the White House expressing the importance of energy infrastructure and the need to expand the network, as well as the increasingly aggressive opposition midstream projects continue to face. Efforts to delay or halt new pipeline construction and energy development include anti-fracking laws, ballot initiatives such as the recent attempt in Colorado, and legal challenges such as the recent order from a federal judge to stop construction on Keystone XL.

Judge Brian Morris, of the District Court for the District of Montana, ordered the work-stop and criticized the Trump Administration for “ignoring climate change concerns” and alleged the State Department “didn’t properly account for factors such as low oil prices, the cumulative impacts of greenhouse gases from Keystone and the Alberta Clipper pipeline, and the risk of oil spills.” However, the State Department, as well as state regulators, determined the Keystone XL pipeline would not have a “major climate change impact.” It appears that the judge’s decision may have been fueled by partisan politics rather than actual findings. Matthews concludes by reiterating the importance of expanding our energy infrastructure and emphasizing we must trust the system, writing:

The importance of fossil fuel production to the U.S. economy and to national security cannot be overstated. Having mostly failed at the ballot box, fossil fuel opponents are increasingly turning to pipeline obstruction, either by protests (e.g., the Dakota Access pipeline) or the courts, or both. It’s one more way of imposing their will on voters rather than the other way around.


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