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sustainabLE LIFE Former White House attorney for the Council on ­Environ­mental Quality Don Scroggin ’66 believes that the findings from the several Environmental Impact Statements completed for Keystone XL are accurate. “Pipelines are demonstrably safer and less environmentally harmful than rail travel of oil. The fact is not really controversial; you can look at the data to see it,” said Scroggin. Scroggin contends that those opposed to pipelines are simply opposed to using fossil fuels. “The opposition to it is not so much because of environmental impact, because from a scientific point of view, it has been examined so it’s not the issue,” said Scroggin. “The issue is whether or not the United States should continue to depend on fossil fuels or if they should seek to develop more energy from solar, wind, and other sources.” But even those sources, admits Scroggin, require energy to manufacture. In addition to transporting oil most safely, Scroggin also agrees that building more pipelines would help the economy. “The oil is going to flow, and it will either flow to us [or abroad],” said Scroggin. “The difference is, if it flows to the United States through a pipeline, then economic impact is large both in terms of employment but also in terms of income and benefit to the economy. If it goes to China, it’s a different story.”

Go with the flow In Scroggin’s words, “Everyone mouths issues that are not the reason that they are arguing for or against the project. The issue is whether we should simply stop having coal plants, or discourage the use of oil.” As Scroggin notes, questioning the safety and impact of oil pipelines may only be the tip of the iceberg on a larger issue. The oil pipeline controversy is part of a more complex discussion of the current usage of energy in the United States and whether this nation wants to continue to consume a generous portion of the world’s petroleum and crude oil supply. Despite fewer spills and more jobs, a pipeline can only carry as much oil as is available. 

ask expert askthethe expert How would the expansion of transmission routes for oil and natural gas impact the supply and demand and the industry as a whole?

As a general rule, markets become more efficient as costs (in this case transportation) decrease and market options increase. The completion of a pipeline provides a least cost solution to the transportation problem as well as additional market options in trading. The alternatives to pipeline transmission are rail and truck, both of which are much more expensive. Pipelines have a further advantage of allowing trading of product as a method of access (i.e. if you buy a rail car full of crude oil, it will be delivered to the nearest siding. If you buy the same quantity through a pipeline, you can draw out that amount of oil, at the nearest portal, over a range of time). The disadvantage of pipelines is that they do not move in two directions easily. Because of the global nature of particularly the oil market, the completion of additional pipelines within the U.S. will have very little impact upon domestic gasoline prices. Dr. Harold Christensen is Professor of Economics at Centenary College.

ENGAGE ENGAGE Sustainable Life

The Earth is getting warmer and needs a check-up— get its vital signs here: Pro: TransCanada thinks the Keystone XL Pipeline will be the safest in the U.S. Do you agree? Con: Friends of Earth call Keystone XL Pipeline an environmental crime in progress. Take action.

Encircle Fall 2013