Potential Problems of Pipelines

Pipelines connect us all. From the energy from natural gas heating our homes, or the polyester shirts you and your best friend both wear made from petroleum transported via pipeline to that manufacturer. It is estimated that approximately 2.6 million miles of pipeline crosses the United States delivering precious resources like crude oil, natural gas, water, biofuels, and sewage.

Despite the various purposes of pipelines at large, it is the harmful environmental effects associated with fossil fuels that left a bad taste in the mouth of our editors and quite literally for those whose clean water was contaminated. With oil spills and national protests in mind, our editorial board asked, ‘do the people have a say in the construction of these potentially hazardous modes of transport, and is the issue much larger than oil spills?’

“The benefits of a pipeline are: of course it’s efficiency in transporting fossil fuels; it’s much quicker and overall less expensive,” says one editor, “independence from other companies,” says another, and most importantly “creating jobs and strengthening our nation’s economy.” However, the editorial board agreed “investing in the long run is a bad idea,” and that it “needs stronger environmental regulation.”

Most of our editors were not originally familiar with the system of pipelines embedded beneath the ground of our nation, but considering the U.S. has the largest pipeline system in the world, being buried is something that pipeline businesses are good at. In order to build a pipeline, companies must obtain a Right of Way (ROW).

This is a permit that allows the company to construct and embed pipelines on areas of land. As hidden as the pipelines beneath the ground are, the regulations associated with their construction is equally mysterious to our editors. It has unanimously been determined that while the ROW can be obtained by buying and purchasing land, some pipeline companies strive to construct pipelines in preservation and environmentally protected land mutually owned by taxpayers. In this case, it is up to the government to manage the land with the voice of its citizens in mind.

Our editorial board believes it is imperative that the government and these businesses are transparent with the people local to the area where pipeline construction has been proposed, although we doubt this currently happens. “100 percent people need a say in what is happening on their land. If we let the government, this government specifically, have complete control, this earth will be gone faster than we know it. We are the people that are directly impacted by whatever the government decides,” said one of the editors.

The skepticism of our government’s management of pipeline projects extend into the fundamentals of business and its relationship with politicians. “I don’t think letting the government make that decision is unilaterally a good idea—the oil lobby is really strong, and much of what legislators do and say is dictated by special interest groups that profit off of oil. Obviously they’ll want to implement the pipeline system to help their bottom line,” one editor commented.

Although business for fossil fuels is booming, “Oil is limited and its supply is running low worldwide, meaning our rate of consumption is exponentially higher than the rate that it is being replenished naturally. It’s a dead end that will keep destroying the planet’s atmosphere and ecosystems, so I don’t think making pipelines will help the situation,” an editor said.

“These pipelines and those in other regions could potentially impact the environment soil, animals, and drinking water not only if they burst, but while being constructed,” said one editor- an example of this is the 60 gallon spill that occurred upon primary stages of construction in the Keystone Pipeline.

With all of these dangers, and the struggle for citizens to become aware and instrumental in the decision process of pipelines, our editors are at a standstill.

We, at The Outlook, agree that renewable energy is the wiser solution to the problem. We hope that technologies are advancing quickly enough to combat our contributions to pollution and climate change before fossil fuels are dangerously depleted and the earth is in peril.