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Officials erring by not approving oil pipeline projects

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: January 10, 2014

FOR the average environmentalist, the choice between moving crude oil by train versus moving it by pipeline is a no-brainer.

As in brainless.

It's not a false choice to say pipelines are safer than trains for transporting crude. It is a false choice to say neither pipelines nor rail tank cars should be needed because renewable fuels can carry the load.

Sierra Club official Michael Marx can't even use the word “oil” without putting the word “extreme” in front of it. But the only extremism here is the belief that the Sierra Club's “Beyond Coal” and “Beyond Oil” campaigns are tilting at more than windmills. Americans like renewable energy but they also like to drive, fly, heat and cool their homes and watch football games on TVs, mostly powered by affordable, reliable fossil fuels.

Which brings us back to choices.

Spikes in oil supplies have outrun the supply of pipelines to transport that oil. The result has been a spike in oil shipments by rail. One result of that is a series of train wrecks, including one that killed 47 people in Canada last summer. Pipelines also have accidents, but they tend not to kill people.

Building pipelines is an invasive, messy affair during construction but not afterward. Same goes for laying railroad tracks or building freeways. There the comparison ends. Pipelines lie underground and do their work, quietly and out of sight. Trains and cars move above the surface and sometimes get in accidents.

The same presidential administration that has granted a 30-year waiver on liability for bird deaths caused by windmills has blocked construction of the Keystone XL pipeline's northern leg. The same protesters who pointlessly railed against the Keystone's southern leg used fossil fuels to motor between protest venues. Much of the oil going out by rail could be going by pipeline.

That rail transport of oil poses more of a threat to humans than a pipeline is of little interest to environmentalists. To them, both methods of transport are equally bad because fossil fuels shouldn't be transported at all.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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