Monday, February 12, 2018

Note to Anti-Pipeline Activists: ‘Unsafe Bridges’ a Good Argument for Pipelines

The War on Pipelines is part of the Environmentalist’s War on Fossil Fuels (itself part of the War on Reliable Energy, including nuclear power). A key object of this assault is fracked oil and gas. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, the miraculous process which has opened up vast new fossil fuel resources. Environmentalists view pipelines as a means of transporting fracked fossil fuels. So they’ve been waging their War on Pipelines under the logic that if you can’t transport fracked fuels, fracking can be restrained.

But where pipelines are lacking, producers have simply found other ways to transport their product—ways that are often less efficient and, more importantly, less safe. Not to be dissuaded, anti-fossil activists have launched a campaign to stop tanker trains from transporting fracked oil on the grounds that the bridges they cross are not safe. In Bridges used to carry combustible crude oil need repairs, activists say, Sara Jerde reported:

Combustible Bakken oil is too dangerous to be transported along Bergen County's aging bridges and rail ways, activists and environmentalists protested on Sunday.

Despite assurances from CSX, the railroad company, that bridges are regularly monitored and upgraded as necessary,

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, pointed to the potential of dangerous incidents, such as in Quebec, where a derailment of a train carrying oil -- dubbed a "bomb train" -- resulted in 47 people dying.

"Bakken oil is one of the most dangerous form of chemicals we can put on the rail lines," he said. "We're playing Russian roulette that can, one day, lead to a catastrophic tragedy."

This is the same Sierra Club that can regularly be observed leading anti-pipeline protests. If Tittel really cared about safety, wouldn’t he see that the answer to the dangers of transporting oil by rail is pipelines?   

I left these comments, edited for clarity:

This is a good argument for pipelines. As the Star-Ledger has noted, pipelines are a much safer way to transport oil. The trouble is, these anti-rail activists are the same activists who oppose pipelines on principle, including the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline which could alleviate the need to transport Bakken oil by rail and truck.

These activists are not primarily concerned with safety. They’re concerned with shutting down reliable, affordable energy production, the lifeblood of our industry and our standard of living. Their main target is fossil fuels, but also nuclear. Why? Because environmentalists are driven by the principle of minimizing human impact on raw nature, rather than maximizing human well-being by promoting reliable energy development while minimizing the impacts of the negative side-effects of industrialization. Put in simple terms, they’re not about solving problems. They’re about “throwing out the baby with the bath water.”

These activists have no credibility. They never recognize the enormous benefits that fossil fuels provide for humans. They shout “STOP, STOP, STOP” at every progressive energy project, if the energy is produced from fossil fuels. Rather than help figure out the safest way possible based on current technology to move the Bakken Oil, the result of the incredibly progressive technology of fracking, they oppose, oppose, oppose—without due respect for the benefits. (Never mind so-called “renewable” green energy. Every kilowatt of solar and wind generation needs backup from fossil, nuclear, and hydro sources. With today’s technology, no matter how many solar panels or wind turbines are built, we’ll still need the oil. We’ll need it, that is, from the perspective of human well-being, not “saving our planet,” as the moral standard of value.)

The activists may have a point about the safety of the bridges. But why should anyone believe them? They logically should be demanding approval for the much safer pipeline method. They’re not. How do we know that the bridge safety issue isn’t just another cover for their war on fossil fuels (They’ve just embraced a new strategy to halt pipelines—defending property owners again eminent domaine. But the pipeline opponents have a double standard, as I’ve pointed out, defending private property against taking when it suits their agenda, and supporting the taking when it when it does)? Will any infrastructure improvements ever be enough to satisfy Jeff Tittel and his ilk that “the potential of dangerous incidents” has been minimized enough to be able to say that the benefits outweigh the risks? I doubt it. But remember; no risk means no progress and no industrial civilization.

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