As President Trump charges forward with campaign promises to revive the American oil industry, he also ignites environmental protection groups intent on thwarting his efforts and preventing future damage to citizens, the lands they inhabit, and ultimately, the globe.
The controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines are a source of contention among oil industry stalwarts, Republicans, Democrats, environmental activists, farmers, and Native Americans across the nation who—for the first time in decades—united to oppose construction of DAPL late last year.
The pro camp argues that the pipelines will generate jobs (8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs though not long-term maintenance jobs) and fortify the United States’ economy by increasing energy outputs from oil and gas. Those against the pipelines voice concerns about the incidence of leaks and bursts that amount to significant losses of life, including considerable harm to human beings who live off the adjacent land.
In 2012, ProPublica published a Pipeline Safety Tracker that illustrates the network of pipelines that carry oil and gas across the nation. The data visualizations depict correlated damages in terms of material, economic, and medical losses. The Sparknotes version is that the United States houses a network of 2.5 million miles of pipelines. Although energy companies and federal regulators extol the safety of pipelines compared to the alternative railcar and truck transportation methods, when a rupture does occur, it can cause millions—if not billions—of dollars in damages. Much of the damage wrought is attributed to paltry federal oversight and an aging infrastructure.
Sustainable energy companies and environmentally minded technologists offer an alternative view for the future of the American energy industry. Whereas President Trump and many federal regulators put great stock in oil companies as a source of jobs and economic stability, futurists like Elon Musk tout the potentials of sustainable energy technology as an untapped engine for job creation and revenue, especially in localities affected by factory closures.
Now that President Trump will sign orders to advance the contentious pipelines, we can expect tremendous pushback from environmental organizations, the convened tribes in North Dakota, and global activists who see this as a fateful step backward from Trump’s predecessor’s moves to clinch climate change. The New York Times reported Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, as saying that “This is not a done deal.”
The group put out the following statement: “The last time around, TransCanada was so confident they literally mowed the strip where they planned to build the pipeline, before people power stopped them. People will mobilize again.”
This monumental decision will affect those close to the pipelines and those far from them. If you have an opinion, no matter the side, call your congressman and voice it. If possible, call the congressmen of the states that the pipeline will cross, irrespective of their political affiliation. When you confine your voice to the Internet, you do so to the detriment of the health of this nation, its people, and its system of governance.
*Photo credit to Doug Mills of The New York Times