A story in today’s New York Times offers one more reason for Minnesota regulators to reject a proposed expansion of a Canadian tar sands crude oil pipeline through the northern part of the state. The proposal is called Enbridge Line 3, which would run 337 miles from the North Dakota border to the Wisconsin border, passing near or through many Minnesota lakes and rivers.
The Times story, “Oil Exports, Illegal for Decades, Now Fuel a Texas Port Boom,” makes it crystal clear that we don’t need this pipeline for U.S. or Minnesota energy security. It says:
For 40 years it was virtually impossible to sell American oil to any country except Canada because of an export ban that was a bedrock of United States energy policy. The Obama administration slowly loosened the ban and Congress finally ended it in late 2015 in a compromise that also extended tax credits for renewable energy.
Oil exports grew slowly through most of 2016, but this year there has been a surge reaching 1.3 million barrels a day — roughly 15 percent of domestic production — which even at today’s depressed prices is worth more than $1.5 billion a month.
Enbridge Line 3 violates treaties with the Anishinaabe. The pipeline will cut through the Mississippi headwaters and prime wild rice areas. Tar sands oil production is highly polluting, generating large amounts of air pollution and contaminating large amounts of fresh water in Canada. Tar sand oil spills are difficult to clean up because the crude is very heavy and sinks in water.
There are lots of good environmental reasons to reject the project. All that, and we don’t need the oil for our domestic consumption. We already import more crude oil than we need. One of the approvals Line 3 needs from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is a “Certificate of Need.” It seems pretty clear we don’t need more oil.
Politically, the driving force for more oil imports is not energy policy, but jobs.
According to the Times story:
Much of Texas has been in an economic slump in recent years, having lost about 100,000 oil jobs since late 2014, when the price of oil fell from over $100 a barrel to less than $50. But because of the exports, the job losses have been stemmed and there is the promise of new jobs to come. Oil executives said that if weren’t for exports, so much oil would be stockpiled in already flush domestic inventories that the American benchmark price would be $10 to $20 below the current $45 a barrel, making most new drilling uneconomical.
That is to say, we have an oil glut. We should use this window of relative energy independence to push more renewable sources.
Here is the Sierra Club’s Fact Sheet on Line 3 and Energy Security.