Opinion

Billionaires Are Behind Efforts to Slow America’s Energy Infrastructure

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Posted: Jul 20, 2019 12:01 AM
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Billionaires Are Behind Efforts to Slow America’s Energy Infrastructure

Source: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, file

Summer travel season is officially underway. For many Americans that means road trips in the car or heading to the nearest airport to catch a flight. According to AAA, nearly 50 million Americans had plans to travel for Independence Day, and with several weeks until Labor Day the number of travelers is likely to remain high. 

Whether it’s a road trip or plane ride, travel during this time of year is a great reminder of how North American energy helps make efficient and easy travel possible for so many of us. Having reliable sources of safe, affordable energy sources here in the U.S. is a critical part of fueling our everyday life – including our summer travel plans. 

One key component of making sure we have access to North American energy is through a strong national energy infrastructure, including reliable and safe pipelines. Pipelines provide access to affordable energy by helping to deliver energy products like gasoline, jet fuel, and natural gas efficiently to meet the nation’s energy needs. Pipelines are also largely recognized as the safest way of transporting oil and gas, compared to railroads or other ways of transport. 

Over the past several years, the number of pipeline incidents has decreased even as pipeline miles and barrels delivered have both increased. Pipelines remain one of the safest and most efficient ways to deliver energy across the U.S., delivering their energy products safely 99.999% of the time. Some reports also show that pipelines are better for the environment than transporting crude oil by railroad and pose far fewer public health and environmental risks.  

That’s why it’s so alarming that protestors are increasing efforts to prevent current pipelines from being safely updated and improved, and therefore threatening our nation’s energy infrastructure. Honor the Earth is one of the groups working to prevent pipelines from being used as a safe, reliable source of transporting energy to Americans. For example, Honor the Earth was one of the leaders in opposing the Dakota Access pipeline being built, and it’s currently trying to block updates to a pipeline (called Line 3) running through Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. 

These pipelines have been a critical means of providing needed energy to Americans, especially in the Midwest, but Honor the Earth is focused on undermining our energy infrastructure and preventing safe updates to improve aging pipelines even through it’s safer than transporting oil by railroad. Honor the Earth even recently petitioned Minnesota’s Supreme Court claiming the environmental review of the Line 3 pipeline didn’t adequately review railroads as an alternative to transporting oil by pipelines. 

This seems odd given the environmental track record of railway vs pipeline. But you need only look at the organization’s biggest donors to make sense of it all. Honor the Earth presents itself as an organization intended to protect the environment, but its funded by billionaires like Warren Buffet, who has substantial interests in the railroad industry. In 2017, Honor the Earth listed NoVo Foundation as a top donor, which is funded solely by Warren Buffett and run by Buffett’s son and his wife. But Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the largest freight railroad network in North America.

While Honor the Earth is masquerading as environmentalists, it’s clear they are only doing so when it fits the agenda of their billionaire funders. In the meantime, they are undermining our nation’s energy infrastructure and threatening all Americans’ ability to access safe, affordable, and reliable energy to power our everyday lives. Let’s remember that when we’re on the road this summer.