Oil pipeline need is questionable, project is short-sighted


by Katie Mertz | July 31st, 2009 • This week, Bemidji saw protestors unite to oppose the construction of an oil pipeline across northern Minnesota from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. Proposals for an pipeline from Canada started in 2006, and after some debate a 300-mile pipeline stretching over 13 Minnesota counties was completed and now fuels two Twin Cities refineries. A spokesperson for Minnesota Pipe Line Co., the company that proposed the pipeline and a subsidiary of oil delivery giant Koch Industries, said the project was a response to Minnesotans’ demand for more energy.

This time, the proposed pipeline is spearheaded by Enbridge Energy, another major oil distribution company. A spokesperson for Enbridge first cited the same rationale for the new pipeline—a need to meet energy demand. The last project almost doubled the amount of crude oil that the two Twin Cities refineries produce. Apparently, however, that did not satisfy the state’s energy demand. Is our thirst for oil so insatiable that more than 2,000 miles of existing oil pipelines simply does not suffice? Am I the only one doubting the imminent energy shortage in Minnesota?

Hindsight is the official blog of Minnesota 2020. Hindsight gives the run down on the news that jumps out at us on the issues that matter. Often times these stories show us how much further we need to go to have the progressive policy realized in Minnesota.

Maybe not, because now Enbridge is citing less dependence on the Middle East as the primary reason for the pipeline. Sounds to me like this is rhetoric designed to get U.S. flag-wavers on board with the project, because this project probably wouldn’t even qualify as a single cobblestone on the road to oil independence. I think that goal is a good one, but why not focus on depending on ourselves and not Canadians as the alternative?

What policymakers SHOULD be doing is using this opportunity to focus on alternative energy as a resource for this apparently pressing demand for energy. Supply-siders would advocate more incentives for alternative energy producers. Keynesians would say we need incentives for consumers to choose alternative energy over oil. I say put our efforts into either or both but NOT into building another oil pipeline that we don’t necessarily need and definitely don’t want in the long run.

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