It’s important to keep in perspective the oil spill that occurred last week near Edinburg, N.D., north of Grand Forks.
The spill, which occurred Tuesday, Oct. 29, dumped 9,120 barrels of oil into a wetlands area before a computer system shut down the pipe and presumably limited the damage. A week later, the Herald was told by a TC Energy spokesman that approximately half of the oil has been recovered. The company sent 200 personnel to the site and they worked around the clock to clean the mess.
The spill will stain the countryside and will add one more notch to the war clubs of the anti-oil faction. But we still believe pipelines are the best mode by which to transport crude oil from field to refinery.
To quote Forbes magazine contributor James Conca: “Truck worse than train worse than pipeline worse than boat.”
Conca – whose background includes 33 years as a scientist in the field of earth and environmental sciences – last year wrote a piece for Forbes that outlined the best and worst methods to transport oil. In his article, he cited various sources, including a piece on oilprice.com that flat-out declares transporting oil by train the most dangerous method.
The oilprice.com article also notes that the rate of hazardous-material spills by railroads is about 2.7 times higher than pipelines. Meanwhile, rail transportation costs about three times more than transporting oil via pipeline.
Conca concludes: “Oil and gas is moving around our country, around pristine wilderness, around our cities and towns. Oil is going to keep moving, in increasing volumes due to our new energy boom, so the answer is not simply to stop it. The answer is to determine how to move it safely. While many have called for shutdown of pipelines and a moratorium on new pipeline construction, the correct reaction may just be the opposite.
“We should be replacing old pipelines and building new ones, reducing the stress on each line.”
That last line is especially relevant in our region.
In North Dakota this week, those workers near Edinburg are scrambling night and day to clean up that ugly blemish on the prairie. It’s an unfortunate happening, but it isn’t enough to convince us that pipelines – and the oil industry, for that matter – should be shut down or in any way limited.
And in Minnesota, the Enbridge company is still hoping to construct a replacement for its Line 3, which is planned to take oil from Canada through northwest Minnesota down to a terminal at Lake Superior. It is facing protests and delays at every turn, even as public entities – cities, counties and the like – are banding together to push for its construction.
Oil exists, and it fuels the U.S. economy. Until better methods are developed, it will continue to drive our cars, our trains, our airplanes, our military and all infrastructure and industry in between.
And because of that thirst, it will continue to be transported until it dries up. The U.S. just as well should push for the safest modes of transportation and, for now, it appears the best method is via pipeline, even though that method obviously is not failsafe.