The first and foremost problem with pipelines is our collective failure to realize how important they are. As I write, our nation is being fed by 2.5 million miles of existing pipelines, bringing us oil, natural gas and hazardous chemicals in order that our way of life can continue.
We love to condemn the companies who construct the pipelines, but you won’t find us condemning the companies who make the solar panels, automobiles, clothes, medicines, food, bikes, toys, phones, televisions and other comforts that we enjoy each and every day. However, it is our love of technology and creature comforts that drives much of the need for our extensive pipeline networks. So, in a great capacity, we protest and bite the very hand that feeds us.
Environmentally speaking, pipelines are far more clean, efficient, economical and safe than using trucks to transport such massive quantities of liquid fuels. What hurts the image of pipelines is that when accidents do happen, they are sensational, huge and highly visible. Overall however, pipelines have been very safe.
Now, this is not to say that we don’t deserve safer pipelines and more accountability. Make no mistake, pipelines have inherent problems that industry and our government continue to ignore. Consider the big picture:
- The corrosion and aging that is destroying our water infrastructure is also at work on our pipelines.
- The US has no national policy for water, and it has none for pipelines. Maintenance and upgrade are ignored.
- Increased safety is possible via advanced IT, camera, and valve technology. Pipelines are seldom armed with the best available safety technology largely due to costs.
- Consumers will not readily pay higher prices for increased safety features.
- The ever-changing geological structure of Earth combined with man’s increased construction is a guarantee that in the future there will be problems with pipelines.
- With 2.5 million miles worth of existing pipeline and America’s need for fuels increasing there is no longer a “put it over there, we don’t want it” solution to this problem.
At the end of the day those who oppose pipelines must accept the reality that America cannot function without their continued expansion. Pipeline owners then, at the risk of incurring increased costs must bring to the public, the available advances to make pipelines safer. In turn, for this increased safety we must be willing to accept higher prices for the goods we purchase.
I believe America must have a water policy. Closely related to this, since pipelines can affect our water, America must also develop a pipeline policy. Otherwise, our water will continue to be in jeopardy of new contamination.