Keystone Pipeline Leak: When Is Enough, Enough?
Why are we not pursuing other viable energy options?
The oil veins of the midwest have blackened the land once again. Last Thursday, the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota leaked an estimated 210,000 gallons of crude oil, poisoning the sacred lands of South Dakota. The cause of the leak is still under investigation, but the real questions we should be asking are “why is this still happening?” and “why are we not pursuing other viable energy options?”
Unfortunately, the latest incident in South Dakota did not raise a big enough red flag in the faces of power holders to force the serious consideration of investment into alternative renewable resources. The leak came just days before Nebraska officials announced a decision to move forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline project jeopardizing even more farm land, waterways, and wildlife.
The current Keystone Pipeline system stretches more than 2,600 miles from Canada’s Alberta oil sands into Manitoba and then south to refineries in the southern United States. The newly-approved Keystone XL Pipeline will stretch from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska and will link the system by cutting through Montana and South Dakota.
The Keystone XL Pipeline has been widely protested for years because of its severe environmental risks such as last week’s oil spill. It will run through rivers, beneath our crops, and will sever wildlife migration routes. Advocates for the XL project claim that it would produce jobs and promote energy independence. In reality, however, the completed project creates less than 50 permanent jobs while increasing the probability of oil spills across more than one thousand miles.
It’s as if we assume that each time a preventable disaster like this happens, it’s going to be the last time. Instead of seeking alternative solutions, we’re seeking more viable land for drilling. Beautiful wildlife habitats such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) are being sold off to the highest bidder and are now at risk to these detrimental environmental disasters.
So what are our options? Renewable resources, although not perfect, have the potential to move the world in the right direction. Looking solely at the financial aspect, the outdated process of oil extraction and production can not compete with the technological advancements in sustainable alternatives. The question at hand is not if we move toward these options, but when. We should be pushing forward with sustainable industries rather than toiling in the same issues we’ve been facing for the last fifty years.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity in the United States. This makes sense when you consider the fact that there are more than 250 million passenger cars and trucks on our roads today. Working to consciously curb these emissions will mean looking toward electric and flex fuel vehicles as well as alternative fuel sources such as biodiesel.
In recent years, electric cars have taken the west coast by storm. These vehicles are beneficial for the environment on a very obvious level, as they do not burn fossil fuels and therefore do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. These vehicles rely on regular charging from the local electricity network, which is powered by plants that burn fossil fuels. These emissions are far lower, however, than the emissions produced by the same number of collective traditional vehicles.
Another alternative to crude oil is the broader implementation of biofuel blends into fuel stations across the country. With millions of passenger vehicles on the roads in the United States today, 80 percent of them are warrantied to run on blends such as E15. That number includes 20 million flex fuel vehicles that are designed to run on blends as high as E85. The reality of this situation, however, is that these fuel alternatives are not widely available in much of the United States. In fact, E15 is only available in 23 states nationwide.
If every domestic driver switched over to electric vehicles and ethanol blends tomorrow, oil industries would be at a major loss. We should be fighting to supply this demand instead of continuing to invest in crude oil alone.
It would be naive to claim that petroleum products will ever completely disappear from our modern world because they are so heavily incorporated in it. They’re in our medication, they’re in all of our plastics, and we breathe their vapors every day. Increasing the incorporation of alternatives will not kill the oil industry, but it will benefit the environment. It is time for the oil companies to release their chokehold on society.
The United States is supposed to be one of the most advanced countries in the world, and yet, when it comes to using its technology to better the environment, it opts out. Preventable disasters such as oil spills will continue unless serious changes are made. We, as a country, should take the lead in setting an example for our planet. We have options, enough is enough.