Through all the shouting and posturing in Washington, D.C., there is one issue on which all sides agree – that the U.S. needs to invest in infrastructure to ensure that people and products can move efficiently and safely from one place to another.
While the country needs massive investments in roads, bridges and ports, it also needs significant investments in its energy infrastructure – including electricity transmission lines, new electrical generation and pipelines – to move natural gas and crude oil from newly developed reservoirs to markets.
Among the most visible of all the proposed projects is the Keystone XL pipeline, which is currently being evaluated by the Nebraska Public Service Commission (NPSC).
The facts in front of the PSC are straightforward. The 1,179-mile long pipeline project will be good for the American and Nebraska economies and, most importantly, will be safe.
Here’s why: The Association of Oil Pipelines says that 99.999 percent of petroleum products moved via pipeline safely reach their destination every day. A 2015 study by the Fraser Institute showed that moving energy via pipeline in Canada was 4.5 times safer than moving the same volume across the same distance by rail. The U.S. Department of Transportation also says that pipelines here are more than 450 times safer than rail on a per-mile basis.
“That’s a number that tells a story Nebraskans need to hear,” Norfolk resident Mike Flood, a former speaker of the Unicameral Legislature, said at a recent public hearing in York before the NPSC.
The pipeline would also be constructed with high-strength carbon steel and equipped with state-of-the-art spill and mitigation technology. It has passed eight exhaustive independent reviews over a decade-long period, including five by the federal government, and studies have repeatedly shown that it will not pose a significant threat to groundwater or the atmosphere.
The oil that Keystone XL will move daily from Canada and the Bakken oil field will replace oil that’s coming to American refineries along the Gulf Coast from overseas and via rail. In fact, the 830,000 barrels of oil per day the pipeline would carry is enough to fill 4,150 trucks or 1,185 railcars. Taking that many vehicles off the road would decrease vehicular and rail traffic and, in turn, air emissions.
Nebraska also stands to lose economically if the five-member state commission passes on construction.
According to economic data, the pipeline will create and support 42,000 U.S. jobs, including 5,500 for individuals in Nebraska in need of family supporting wages. The project will also help keep prices low for families and businesses in Nebraska – especially lower-income families who spend a larger percentage of their disposable income on fuel costs than those in other income brackets – and provide a $1.8 billion shot in the arm for Nebraska school and government services.
In all, the pipeline will contribute more than $20 billion to the U.S. economy. Many of these benefits have already materialized in states and communities where the original Keystone pipeline is located. In seven years, the Keystone Gulf Coast pipeline – XL’s southern half – has injected billions into local economies throughout Texas and Oklahoma after delivering more than 600,000 barrels per day of the same Canadian crude oil that its northwestern add-on would deliver.
Time is ticking. The U.S., per a 2015 analysis, has already lost more than $175 billion in economic activity because of politicians kicking the can down the road for almost a decade on Keystone XL. That figure, obviously, has worsened since.
Now is the time for Nebraska – and America – to bolster the economy and protect the environment by approving Keystone XL.