A catastrophic oil spill in Arkansas last month has breathed new life into the movement to block the Keystone Pipeline. In the wake of the destruction, environmentalist groups are arguing that the pipeline should be put on hold pending more environmental reviews, or nixed entirely. To many, the Arkansas disaster is proof that pipelines are not safe under any circumstances, and that Keystone will be a disaster for the environment.There’s one small problem with this argument, notes Charles Ebinger of the Brookings Institution: if pipelines aren’t built, oil companies will instead rely on trains to transport their product. Indeed, with the Keystone project still on hold, they’ve already begun doing so. But trains are even more likely than pipelines to cause spills, increasing the net hazard to the environment. Bloomberg reports:
A U.S. denial of Keystone XL this year would “undoubtedly” result in more oil spills by trains, Ebinger said in a phone interview. Trains’ higher accident rate comes mainly from leaking rail car equipment, spill records show.“The evidence is so overwhelming that railroads are far less safe than pipelines, that it would be a serious mistake to use these recent spills to say that Keystone is unsafe,” he said. Brookings is a Washington-based nonprofit that says it supports economic and social welfare and a strong American democracy.
Chalk up another green policy fail. Blocking the pipeline won’t stop the oil from coming out of the ground, and it won’t make it impossible to transport it across American soil. What it will do, however, is make it more costly to accomplish these things, as well as causing greater environmental harm in the process. It’s painfully clear no one really thought through this crusade before committing to it. The only bright spot here is that the greens may lack the political power and influence to accomplish their goals.[Pipeline image courtesy of Shutterstock.]