Today while checking on some things in the field on a program in Pennsylvania I came across a stark reminder of the consequences of successful opposition to pretty much all new conventional energy infrastructure in North America. While tracking one large and degrading gas pipeline through the bush, I encountered another pipeline that had failed and was leaking natural gas at a pretty high rate as can be seen and heard in the video I took below.
Pennsylvania’s oil rush began in the 1860s and much of the infrastructure out here is simply ancient. Fracturing technology has brought a new boom to these regions as fields that had been previously considered to be depleted are being brought back to life with new production of both oil and gas in shale formations. Unfortunately, while the existing pipeline infrastructure is old and failing it is damned near impossible to get any large new energy distribution projects approved as myopic and self-serving environmentalists will immediately hinder the process through lobbying and legal challenges. What this foolishness has led to is an increase in environmental damage as well as creating a very dangerous working environment for energy and agricultural workers in areas where pipelines are failing.
It is absolutely undeniable that modern pipelines are far and away the most safe, economical and environmentally friendly way to transport oil and gas. Modern pipeline failures occur on occasion and most often these are due to human error in excavation without proper utility location having been done beforehand. A pipeline can’t be faulted for leaking when a fool hits it with a backhoe shovel. With the literally billions of barrels and cubic feet of energy products being moved all over the world the amount that actually gets lost due to leaks is nearly microscopic in scope and getting smaller all the time as our technology improves.
Demand is not going away for oil and gas any time soon. Environmentalists can harp on all they like about wind, solar and geothermal power but the reality is that these forms of energy are not even remotely close to replacing carbon based energy at this time and we still need to provide oil and gas to people. We are doing this with pipelines and these pipelines are becoming old.
Like it or not, populations are growing and usage of fossil fuels is increasing along with that. Due to myopic opposition, new pipelines are not being built as they should and producers are being forced to either use old pipelines that really should be replaced or are even transporting product through trains and trucks which burn fossil fuels in transporting product and are much more likely to have an accident leading to spills than pipelines will ever be.
If we really care about the environment and about safety we need to expedite new pipeline projects rather than hinder them. We have to be realistic rather than idealistic. New and ever improving pipeline construction and monitoring technology means nothing if we are still forced to use pipelines that are 40, 50 or even 100 years old. Lets build new pipelines so we can shut down these old ones before more product leaks into the environment or people possibly get killed in a large rupture.
Until the flux-capacitor or dilithium crystals leave the world of science fiction and become a reality, we will need fossil fuels in our lives. It’s time to set aside the hysteria spread by multinational corporations such as Greenpeace and take a realistic look at what needs to be done to move oil and gas safely.
Just as we will never see a highway with 0 fatalities we will never be able to move oil and gas with a 100% risk free means. We can come pretty damn close though if we could just put the new pipes in the ground. Until then we unfortunately will only see more spills and accidents.