Just about every aspect of our lives involves a certain amount of risk, of course. It's all about risk management. And indeed, despite the occasional high-profile accident like last week's spill in California, pipelines in general remain very safe. One realistic alternative to transporting Canadian oil by pipeline is transporting that same oil by train or by truck. Yet both of these methods of transport are less safe than pipelines. Logically, then, we should transport as much oil as we can by pipe, and as little as possible by rail or road.
Four recent oil-train derailments--two in the United States and two in Canada accompanied by yet another drive-by rhetorical smear of the Keystone XL pipeline by U.S. President Barack Obama--have re-invigorated the debate over how Canadians and Americans transport oil.
We can continue to resist and block pipelines like Keystone XL, in spite of their impressive safety record, but we cannot avoid the inevitable consequences of such resistance: more oil moved by train and by truck. Let's choose safety instead, and stop paying so much undeserved attention to environmentalist demagoguery. Accidents can't be avoided entirely, but there is a simple way to limit this kind of incident: Stop opposing pipeline projects. Oil is going to be with us for many decades to come, so we should use the safest transportation means we can whenever possible, and that means pipelines.
In the wake of the Lac-Mégantic oil-by-rail disaster, when a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken field exploded in Quebec, some people began to characterize Bakken crude oil as "uniquely flammable," with an implication that new rail car standards might be required to move the material.
Both the people lauding the refinery proposal and those condemning it miss the point. In tying pipeline development to the building of a heavy-oil refinery in B.C., MLA Andrew Mr. Weaver is not so much accepting a reasonable compromise as he is floating still another costly, lengthy, prerequisite to new pipelines.