Why the Dakota Access Pipeline Doesn’t Make Economic Sense

By Mark Paul is a postdoctoral associate at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University. Originally published at TripleCrisis

Last week, Donald Trump signed an executive order to advance approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines. This should come as no surprise, as Trump continues to fill his administration with climate deniers, ranging from the negligent choice of Rick Perry as energy secretary to Scott Pruitt as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, a man who stated last year that “scientists continue to disagree” on humans role in climate change may very well take the “Protection” out of the EPA, despite a majority of Americans—including a majority of Republicans—wanting the EPA’s power to be maintained or strengthened.

As environmental economists, my colleague Anders Fremstad and I were concerned. We crunched the numbers on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The verdict? Annual emissions associated with the oil pumped through the pipeline will impose a $4.6 billion burden on current and future generations.

First and foremost, the debate about DAPL should be about tribal rights and the right to clean water. Under the Obama administration, that seemed to carry some clout. Caving to pressure from protesters and an unprecedented gathering of more than a hundred tribes, Obama did indeed halt the DAPL, if only for a time. Under Trump and his crony capitalism mentality, the fight over the pipeline appears to be about corporate profits over tribal rights. Following Trump’s Executive Order to advance the pipeline, the Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to approve the final easement to allow Energy Transfer Partners to complete the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux have vowed to take legal action against the decision.

While the pipeline was originally scheduled to cross the Missouri River closer to Bismarck, authorities decided there was too much risk associated with locating the pipeline near the capital’s drinking water. They decided instead to follow the same rationale used by Lawrence Summers, then the chief economist of the World Bank, elucidated in an infamous memo stating “the economic logic of dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” That same logic holds for the low wage counties and towns in the United States. The link between environmental quality and economic inequality is clear—corporations pollute on the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable; in other words, those with the least resources to stand up for their right to a clean and safe environment.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898, which ordered federal agencies to identify and rectify “disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.” Despite this landmark victory, pollution patterns and health disparities associated with exposure to environmental hazards by race, ethnicity, and income remain prevalent. Researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) released a report identifying the toxic 100 top corporate air and water polluters across the country, finding the ‘logic’ of dumping on the poor and racial and ethnic minorities persists.

We do not accept this logic, and nor should any branch of the U.S government. As the Federal Water and Pollution Control Act makes clear, water quality should “protect the public health.” Period. Clean water and clean air should not be something Americans need to purchase, rather they should be rights guaranteed to all. The Water Protectors know that and are fighting to ensure their right to clean water, a right already enshrined in law, is protected.

The Numbers The Dakota Access Pipeline is a bad deal for America, and should be resisted. Our findings indicate that the burden of pollution associated with oil passing through the pipeline amounts to $4.6 billion a year—a number none of us should accept. This was arrived at using conservative estimates, and numbers provided by Energy Transfer Partners and the EPA.

According to Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the Dakota Access Pipeline, the pipeline will transport 570,000 barrels of Bakken oil a day once the project is fully operational. It turns out, a barrel of oil is not a barrel of oil. Oil from the Bakken oil fields, which is where the pipeline originates is substantially dirtier than average—containing almost a quarter more CO2 per barrel. (A full breakdown of the numbers is available here.)

The CO2 content of the oil matters tremendously. After all, it’s the leading GHG contributing to global warming—the largest test we have collectively faced as a species. To think about this in economic terms, we need to take a few more steps. While Energy Transfer Partners hired its own economics firm to provide an economic impact study of the pipeline, they left out crucial information. Substantial negative externalities from burning the fossil fuels transported by the pipeline are not priced into the analysis. While the private profits of the pipeline certainly look good, we are concerned about the greater social costs associated with the pipeline, in particular pollution.

To calculate the cost, we need to think about the cost of CO2 emissions. The EPA. and other federal agencies use the social cost of carbon (SCC) to estimate the climate benefits and costs of rulemaking. The EPA’s estimate of the SCC for 2015 is $36 (in 2007 dollars). The SCC is an estimate of the economic damages associated with a small (one metric ton) increase in CO2 emissions in a given year (i.e., the damage caused by an additional ton of carbon dioxide emissions). Applying the SCC to the oil transferred via the pipeline provides the estimated $4.6 billion (2016 dollars) in annual burden from pollution associated with the pipeline. But won’t that simply be a burden on future generations? No.

The case for climate policy is frequently made on the grounds of “intragenerational equity”; intragenerational equity is also critical. The immediate net benefits for people living in polluted communities must be taken into consideration. Co-pollutants and co-benefits are necessary to take into account, as the marginal abatement benefits will vary across carbon emissions sources due to the presence of co-pollutants, such as particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, NOx, and air toxins released during the burning of fossil fuels. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has calculated that premature deaths attributed to co-pollutant emissions from fossil fuel combustion impose a cost of $120 billion a year in the United States, while Taylor and Boyce find that the co-pollutants result in the deaths of thousands per year.

OK, how about the jobs? Trump after all has vowed to bring back jobs—“a lot of jobs.” Not so fast. According to Energy Transfer Partners’ own estimates, the Dakota Access Pipeline will employ just 40-50 permanent workers along the entire route. Surely those jobs matter for the folks that get them. They’ll likely be well-paying jobs with benefits—the types of jobs the economy needs. But with 7.5 million Americans currently unemployed, and millions more underemployed, this won’t make a dent. The pollution associated with the pipeline and the risk of contaminated drinking water, on the other hand, will. Putting Americans back to work through the fossil fuel industry simply doesn’t make sense. According to research by Professor Robert Pollin at the Political Economy Research Institute, investing in a green-energy economy provides three times more jobs than if the money were invested in the fossil fuel economy. Want jobs? How about a green New Deal?

The financial crisis and ensuing banking bailouts ensured private profits while socializing losses. Trump is bringing the same logic to the table, socializing costs associated with pollution—and not counting them—while privatizing profits from the pipelines. Sure, there will be some tax revenue associated with the pipeline, an estimated $56 million annually in state and local divided between four states, but that pales in comparison to the $4.6 billion in annual burden. The economics don’t add up, but let us be clear—the economics shouldn’t necessarily come first. People should have a right to clean water and respect of their ancestral lands.

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48 comments

    1. RenoDino

      Exactly. Let me give you a personal example of how a stupid project, that is environmentally destructive and unnecessary, gets built. They are building a 7-mile long expressway near where I live that will cost $300 million. The area was a designated federal wetland and home to a multitude of animal species. It is the main drainage area for the valley. The land was contaminated with mercury 150 years ago from mining activity upstream, but was safe if left alone. To top it all off, the new road runs parallel to another expressway a half mile away that has vitally no traffic.

      But wait there’s more. Indians live down stream and the water that runs through the area is theirs, as in they have rights to it.

      Now the road, which we fought for 15 years, is being built. The Army Corps of Engineers deemed an EIS unnecessary. The mercury contaminated soil was dug up and put in large piles. Then the rains and flooding came and spread it across the valley. The latest headlines say the mercury levels in the water have gone up 1,000%, less than a year after we warned them in a law suit this would happen. The judge dismissed the suit.

      I could go on, but you get the idea. Like the pipeline, this road was insane on so many levels. Yet it was built because nature is viewed as raw material for profit for a few. These few like their “natural” places sequestered from the many. Private reserves, gated communities, and exclusive resorts let them safely experience nature.

      Now the road sits there half built while they figure out what to do next. The wetlands are destroyed. The soil and water are contaminated. The animal life is gone. There is still no traffic on the other road a half mile away.

      Reply
      1. different clue

        I wonder if the motive is really profit. I wonder if the real motive is antinaturism. Antinaturism is a hatred for nature and an overwhelming overriding Prime Directive to destroy all natural things and systems which can be destroyed. Antinaturism is to nature as Nazi antijewism was to the Jews. The antinaturitic nature-hating antinaturites hate a viable wetland and they hate to see it. They hate the fact that animals live in it and they love the thought of poisoning the wetland and killing the animals.
        Profit seekers have merely found a way to profit off the antinaturism which the antinaturitic antinaturites are going to express anyway.

        I think antinaturism was the motive for the road you describe. I suspect some antinaturism animates the supporters of DAPL. Though clearly there is more profit to be made and so profit is a stronger motive for DAPL.

        (By the way, we see a lot of antinaturism in China. And in Chinese-conquered Tibet.)

        Reply
  1. rusti

    To calculate the cost, we need to think about the cost of CO2 emissions. The EPA. and other federal agencies use the social cost of carbon (SCC) to estimate the climate benefits and costs of rulemaking. The EPA’s estimate of the SCC for 2015 is $36 (in 2007 dollars). The SCC is an estimate of the economic damages associated with a small (one metric ton) increase in CO2 emissions in a given year (i.e., the damage caused by an additional ton of carbon dioxide emissions). Applying the SCC to the oil transferred via the pipeline provides the estimated $4.6 billion (2016 dollars) in annual burden from pollution associated with the pipeline.

    Out of curiosity, do any readers know someone who might take actually take a stance against the DAPL based on this “SCC” argument? Certainly not climate science deniers, not people skeptical of the economics profession or the usefulness of the EPA. Or is this article just targeted at people like me who already oppose the DAPL to post the (surprisingly precise) $4.6 billion figure on Facebook in an act of virtue signaling?

    Reply
  2. Gilford

    His thesis is all wet. It calculates the cost of annual emissions of the oil to be piped but does not even obliquely mention that this oil is already being drilled, pumped, and transported by rail and truck which is less safe for the environment.

    Am I missing something here? Otherwise I wouldn’t say this is up to N.C. normal standards.

    Unless you want to fight wars forever and unless we have a real (not fairy-dust and unicorns) renewable energy bridge to the future then we need reliable pipelines to transport our own stuff and reduce reliance on OPEC/Russians/Iranians etc..

    Reply
    1. jefemt

      You won’t convince me that pipelines are ‘safer’ than rail or truck. Just look at the massive “spills” and leaks in the last three years in Canada, the western , SE’ern, and midwestern US.

      Rail is most cost effective. There were better rail tank-cars in the works, as well as mandating less volatile oil into the tank cars. That may be on hold, with the new Regime.

      The more pipelines that get permitted and built, the longer we wait to transition to your new fairy dust green economy.

      Trump touts jobs, ‘makes works’— I continue to be dazzled by the lack of will and cohesion to get a green energy moon shot 10 year plan in place. Talk about jobs, and ones that have far less negative carbon impact than the same old same old oil coal nat-gas paradigm.

      Reply
        1. Pat

          Just an armchair view here, but frankly neither transportation method strikes me as a good option. The thing with a rail option is that there is a clear limit to the damage as obviously there is a finite amount of oil, but it is likely to happen in a more populous area. A pipeline can have both leaks and spillage that is far beyond any rail issue, but it is less likely to happen right next to a school or other building. But then there is the damage to land and water which can still affect all those people in the school or buildings. Once again neither one is good.

          Beyond the few people who will benefit from these pipelines and the grift they pay to a few others, most of this is a net loser. Especially as there are increasingly viable options that could replace our dependence on these products. But for an even broader range of the right one percent, that can never be allowed because well they wouldn’t be in the one percent if it did.

          Lose, lose, lose.

          Reply
          1. cojo

            You are correct that the environmental costs of spills are difficult to assess and are rarely implemented unless you have mega spills like Exxon Valdez, or Deep Horizon/BP spill. As to who benefits or loses, I think this critique can be made for all modes of transportation as well as capitalism’s lack of account for externalities. I would also criticize Warren Buffet’s stance against pipelines as being disingenuous as his BNSF rail investment would be a significant benefactor if trains were utilized over pipelines.

            Finally, as for viable alternatives to oil, the time horizon of this without crashing the US economy is long enough that these pipelines/fracking make sense now. How you help nudge away from fossil fuels is an ongoing debate; carbon tax, regulations, public opinion, etc. However, it will be a long time before you can fly a plane or heavy trucking without fossil fuels, not to mention generation of base load electricity to overcome the intermittent nature of renewables.

            Reply
            1. nonsense factory

              Warren Buffett is a pipeline promoter and a major backer of DAPL via investments in Phillips 66 ($6 billion), a direct joint owner of the pipeline, and Wells Fargo ($21 billion), a major arranger of financing for the pipeline. His decision to invest in the pipeline was directly related to the risk of his BNSF oil bomb trains exploding.
              https://www.desmogblog.com/2014/01/02/warren-buffett-bought-stake-pipeline-company-same-day-north-dakota-oil-train-explosion

              On top of Phillips Specialty Products and BNSF, Buffett also bought a $3 billion stake in ExxonMobil in November 2013. This came just a few months after he purchased over half-a-billion dollar stake in Suncor. Far from “either-or,” for Buffett then, it’s a game of investing in “all of the above” of Big Oil’s assets.

              Reply
        2. Brian Lindholm

          That derailment in Canada was horrifying. The bodies were so badly burned they had trouble counting them, much less identifying and putting names to them. And the people who died were the unlucky residents of a random town that happened to have railroad tracks going through it. Not pipeline workers who’d knowingly taken the risk.

          Pipelines have long been safer than trains, which in turn are safer than trucks. To quote another study http://business.financialpost.com/news/energy/pipelines-much-safer-than-shipping-oil-by-rail-fraser-institute-study-says:

          Between 2003 and 2013, pipelines experienced more “occurrences” than rail (1,226 versus 127) but fewer issues when the numbers are adjusted to account for volume and distance.

          The study concluded pipelines are likely to experience 0.049 occurrences per thousand barrels of oil equivalent transported and rail will experience about 0.227 occurrences per thousand BoE transported.

          There are also fewer deaths per occurrence with pipelines. Pipeline spills are often bigger, but they typically remain only spills. Trains and trucks move, and they present a lot of spark initiation opportunities when they crash. Giant fireballs often ensue, with a fair chance of nearby bystanders being burned alive.

          If you’re gonna move oil, do it by pipeline. And as long as the US continues to import oil (9.4 million barrels per day, BTW), I’d really rather see us import from Canada. The main alternative, importing more oil instead from Saudi Arabia via supertanker, seems inferior in all regards.

          Well, until the magic battery fairy comes along and gives us batteries with 10X the energy density and 10X the allowable charge cycle count at 1/10th the cost. Then we could do it all with renewables. Has anybody spotted the fairy yet?

          Reply
      1. BeliTsari

        What nobody’s going to report upon is what’s happened since the late 90’s: Indian SAWH mills (with new, largely undocumented, 1099 temps) decrepit Russian-owned mills, early retirement & contract buy-outs in the steel, oil & gas industries, removing those with empirical skill-sets & amalgamation, replacing folks in the vendors, the 3rd party inspection agencies & PHMSA, all at the same time the complicit Bush & Obama administrations were cutting regulation and oversight, during 80% SMYS MOAP… all kind of academic now, they’ll just do whatever they want, as methane percolates from where the permafrost used to be… don’t live in a valley, folks!

        Reply
    2. Jim Haygood

      Substantial negative externalities from burning the fossil fuels transported by the pipeline are not priced into the analysis.

      Nor should they be, unless the absence of a pipeline means the Bakken production will be locked in and never used.

      But that’s not the case at all. As Gilford states, Bakken production is already being moved to market by rail and truck. Moving it by pipeline makes no net change in emissions on a first order analysis. On a second-order basis, pipelines are less subject to spills and accidents than rail and truck surface transport.

      Just another Fake Thesis from an academic with an ax to grind. Who knew that Duke U had sunk so low?

      Reply
      1. Altandmain

        Actually moving by pipeline will increase the number of spills.

        https://web.archive.org/web/20140328195423/http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43390.pdf

        However, the most recent data available indicate that railroads consistently
        spill less crude oil per ton-mile transported than other modes of land transportation.
        The amount of crude spilled per ton-mile of rail transport declined significantly between the early 1990s and the 2002-2007 period, the most recent years for which data are available.

        Nonetheless, the increase in rail shipments of crude has raised safety and environmental concerns. These concerns have been underscored by a series of major incidents involving crude oil transportation by rail, including a catastrophic fire and explosion in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, in July 2013 and a derailment in Casselton, ND, in December 2013 that led to a mass evacuation.

        As far as production goes, production since 2015 has been in decline. The main reason being the low price of oil.

        Reply
      2. Left in Wisconsin

        Have to agree with Haygood on this one. Though I suspect the surprise at elite U dreck is not serious. If others want to claim there is some additional net risk from DAPL, as opposed to gross risk not net of current practice, that is a different analysis.

        Reply
      3. nonsense factory

        Pipelines facilitate long-distance transport to export terminals on the Gulf coast, that’s the real agenda. This is quite different from shipping crude oil by truck and rail to local Midwest refineries for domestic consumption, which could only support limited crude oil consumption, particularly as hybrids and electric vehicles steadily reduce demand for oil:
        https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-03/electric-cars-could-take-an-opec-sized-bite-from-oil-demand
        The whole point of the pipeline is to move oil out of North Dakota to world markets; and since this means oil that would have stayed in the ground gets combusted to atmospheric CO2, yes that does drive an increase in emissions.

        Reply
        1. greg

          Actually, it is also in a line to be useful for transporting Alberta tar sands product to the Gulf Coast. when the Bakken runs out. I think that is the real objective.

          Reply
    3. nonsense factory

      This article has two main points:
      One, that this is part of the Summers / World Bank “outsource pollution to poor communities” agenda. Pipeline transport involves major risks to agricultural farmland as well as to the Standing Rock water supply. The pipeline was rerouted away from Bismark so that a spill wouldn’t imact Bismark; instead, a spill would primarily impact the Standing Rock reservation. This is also a factor in oil bomb trains. Rail lines run through major metropolitan centers; a derailment and explosion inside a city could cause huge damages; so again, externalize the costs to poor communities.
      Two, that the general use of fossil fuels has a cost in terms of fossil CO2 emissions (we could add in general air pollution, ozone, nitrogen oxide, and particulate PAHs) that has to be added to the balance sheet, not ignored as an economic “externality.”

      As far as “reducing reliance on OPEC/Russians/Iranians etc.” that’s pure drivel. Obama and the Congress just lifted the restrictions on exporting U.S.-produced oil to world markets, didn’t they? This pipeline is designed to facilitate the export of North Dakota oil overseas, not to reduce reliance on imports!

      The company’s call to lift the ban was joined by other industry leaders and government officials, especially North Dakota senators John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Energy Committee and Heidi Heitkamp. Following the announcement of Hess’ first Bakken crude export to Europe, Hoeven and Heitkamp each issued releases hailing the Hess shipment overseas. – Hess press release, April 21 2016

      The central agenda of using DAPL to increase exports overseas is also seen in this leaked presentation to Citigroup investors by Energy Transfer Partners:
      http://dakotaaccesspipeline.net/foreign-oil/dakota-access-pipeline-loves-foreign-oil

      If we wanted true energy indendence, we’d be investing in solar, wind, storage and electric vehicles.

      Reply
      1. susan the other

        Investing in a diversity of renewables will happen; it will not be stopped because it resolves all the problems we have incurred trying to maintain the energy waste and its “profits” of the monolithic but geriatric stage of the industrial revolution. But the end of the oil era will overlap. That’s what the DAPL is, unfortunately. It’s a godawful fight and everyone sympathizes with Standing Rock. We don’t need this oil at all; but it still has momentum. Part of that momentum is self serving nonsense like Summers’ – just dump our toxic trash on the third world. If we were only a timely organism that responds immediately to poison in the environment… or poisons in ideology or habit. But we aren’t that nimble… yet.

        Reply
      2. Synapsid

        nonsense factory,

        The map at the link shows that the Dakota Access pipeline runs from North Dakota to the hub at Patoka, Illinois; it also shows some of the many interconnections from Patoka to the Gulf Coast, especially, and to the East Coast (that would be New Jersey in particular.)

        That’s where the refineries are. (Near Patoka, too.) It makes good sense, if you’re in the oil business, to have pipelines that go from where oil is produced to where it will be refined into things like gasoline and jet fuel. And it makes good sense to ship refined products, not crude oil, because doing so brings in more money.

        When Keystone XL was up for permitting the first time we heard the same, not very well-informed, objection: the oil will just be exported! No. The oil will go to the buyers and the buyers are refineries, many of them situated on the coasts, convenient to exporting refined products, and oil, and to importing refined products, and oil.

        Reply
    4. Vatch

      this oil is already being drilled, pumped, and transported by rail and truck which is less safe for the environment.

      Is it? According to this, there were 292 pipeline oil spills in North Dakota in a 2 year period, and only one was disclosed to the public. Perhaps pipelines appear to be safer because it’s easier to cover up pipeline accidents than rail or truck accidents.

      http://usuncut.com/news/north-dakota-292-oil-spills-2-years-officials-disclosed-1-public/

      Reply
      1. Chris Elhardt

        I don’t follow the logic here. How can the 292 spills be hidden from the public when the database in which the spills are reported is open to the public? I’ve looked at that database and it includes such things as a 3 gallon fuel spill at a gas station. Maybe not significant in the larger scheme of things, but not hidden away, either.

        Reply
        1. Vatch

          I think the point is that when the spills occurred the government did not notify people of the events. The data was entered into the database, but there may have been a significant lag between the spills and the data entry.

          But if you say that some of the spills were trivial, I accept that, and I’m glad that the situation is less dire than I realized.

          Reply
    5. Jay

      I was curious about that as well. I wonder what the net difference in SCC is from transporting the oil via truck and rail versus pipeline. The $4.6 billion is a useless metric without some sort of context.

      Reply
    6. Chris Pratt

      Obviously you don’t take climate change seriously. All of this economic forecasting depends on the price of oil, which could go very low in a big hurry if electric cars come on line as quickly as I hope they will.

      Reply
    7. different clue

      If the pipeline were objectively important, they should have rammed it under Bismark, the most logical and shortest and most direct-to-reach crossing point. The fact that the Bismarkians pushed to get it re-routed to just upstream from Standing Rock shows that the Bismarkians were very aware of the hazards.
      It is unfortunate that no counter-DAPL activists thought to agitate for de-re-routing it right back to under Bismark.

      “Shove it up your own back yard.”
      “Let them shove it up their own back yard.

      We need a handy acronym for that, if we can move it into the language.
      RUYOBY. Right Up Your Own Back Yard. Take your project and shove it RUYOBY.
      RUTOBY Right Up Their Own Back Yard. They can take their project and shove it RUTOBY.

      Reply
    1. nonsense factory

      It would mean a much lower risk of water and soil contamination since pipeline spills are far more massive than train spills. Of course the better solution is to just leave the oil in the ground and switch to renewables and electric vehicles.

      Reply
  3. jfleni

    Nothing the oil baron grease monkeys do really makes any sense! Dig a hole let it fill with GREASE, and sell it, flaring off (wasting) any gas which could keep the people of ND warm at least. GIMME! on steroids!

    Then drive the grease monkeys mad with “free enterprise” theology, ignoring the really smart billionaires who know that renewables are the best and most profitable ways to get vast amounts of filthy lucre right now.

    In the process bribe feckless politicians to support what they know is stupid! The poor indigenous, inhabitants trying to protect their water are only the first victims of the GREASE MONKEYS!

    The grease monkeys are losing money badly, but nobody tries to stop them except a few desparate people mounted on Indian ponies. Crazy!

    Reply
  4. Minnie Mouse

    Does anybody know if transporting crude is worse than transporting refined product? Any refineries close to the source?

    Reply
    1. cojo

      Two problems with transporting refined products off the bat. One is that you would need a separate pipeline for each refined product, and two refined products are much more volatile and flammable than crude oil creating greater risk of catastrophic accidents.

      Reply
      1. nonsense factory

        Bakken crude is explosive and corrosive due to high amounts of hydrogen sulfide (corrosive) and dissolved volatile gases (explosive). Refined products don’t have these problems and thus are more stable.
        http://www.sightline.org/2014/01/21/why-bakken-oil-explodes/

        Scott Smith, the Water Defense chief scientist, explains the role played by the peculiar geology of the Bakken formation. Oil there is found “trapped” between layers of shale rock about 2 miles below ground with no surface outcropping that might allow volatile or gaseous compounds to escape. As a consequence, when the oil is extracted it often contains high levels of VOCs or other hazardous compounds. In fact, Smith estimates that up to 40 percent of the material in a tank car carrying Bakken oil may be volatile organic compounds, and therefore more flammable than the oil itself.

        So yes, processing the oil locally and shipping the refined products by train or truck would be safer – but this wouldn’t support export overseas to world markets, would it?

        Reply
        1. cojo

          I’m aware that Bakken oil may be more explosive that other varieties of crude oil, but you can’t say the same as for all the refined products.

          Several other issues about refining, one, it is that it’s nearly impossible to build new refineries these days due to the costs, and regulatory requirements. Therefore, although it would be nice to refine the oil closer to home, its just not feasible for every extraction location. Second, refineries are tailored to process specific grades of oil so some oil has to be shipped long distances to process.

          Reply
      2. lyle

        Actually you don’t look at the Colonial pipeline from Tx to Va (it was built during wwII to avoid German submarines that took out tankers moving the oil from Tx to Va and North) You just put the appropriate spacers into the pipeline: Here is a link to a presentation from Carnige Mellon Chemical Engineering on how it is done. Oil Pipeline Logistics – CEPAC
        cepac.cheme.cmu.edu/pasi2008/slides/cerda/library/slides/jce..
        See slides 11,12 and 13 in the presentation. There is some mixing and product separation has to be done at the terminal for some mixtures required and the presentation points out that the operator of the pipeline has to ensure that certain products are not placed next to each other in the pipeline.

        Reply
        1. Cojo

          Thanks, didn’t know that. I guess the issue would then be which is more economical, sending crude alone, or switching frequently for different batches of refined products. I suspect the former.

          Reply
      3. different clue

        I thought I read somewhere that pipelines can ship different refined products at different times by means of putting a movable ball-plug in the pipeline at the head of the bunch of stuff being shipped through it, followed by a powerfully motored little ball-plug-headed “pusher robot” at the “tail end” of the long bolus of stuff being shipped.

        Am I totally wrong about all that?

        Reply
  5. rps

    According to priceofoil.org study: “the Dakota Access Pipeline’s two largest owners – Enbridge Energy Partners (EEP) and Energy TransferPartners (ETP) – cost taxpayers as much as $665 million in 2015, by avoiding corporate taxes. Furthermore, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allows pipeline companies to charge their customers for some of those avoided taxes, meaning that EEP and ETP can pass along to customers a “cost” they never paid in the first place, in a double whammy to taxpayers and ratepayers. The companies also benefit from additional state and federal tax breaks and subsidies” (not calculated in this report).

    The logistical debate about environmental impact, efficient transportation costs plus tribal land rights (eminent domain vs. sovereign entities) is an argument the administration will not engage in since they are pro-business, fewer federal corporate governance laws with the qualifier of “make America Great again” by creating jobs.

    However if the debate is about how to abolish loopholes such as structured corporate entities called
    Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs avoid corporate-level federal income taxes entirely), and end all other state and local taxpayer subsidies- the DAPL venture becomes cost prohibitive.

    It ain’t capitalism if they’re bellying up to the taxpayer trough. Live by the sword die by the sword

    Reply
  6. Dave

    Missing link in the eighth paragraph,
    “According to Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the Dakota Access Pipeline, the pipeline will transport 570,000 barrels of Bakken oil a day once the project is fully operational. It turns out, a barrel of oil is not a barrel of oil. Oil from the Bakken oil fields, which is where the pipeline originates is substantially dirtier than average—containing almost a quarter more CO2 per barrel. (A full breakdown of the numbers is available here.)

    Here it is:

    https://socialequity.duke.edu/sites/socialequity.duke.edu/files/site-images/DAPLPressRelease.pdf

    Reply
  7. nah

    Oil is the best energy source we will ever have, farms run on it, US cities are built around it
    .
    We will burn extract and petrochemical every barrel over the next 10,000 years, if not 100,000 years
    .
    We are teraforming the planet, the Sun is older than physics is new, we risk evolution by every means considering reliable evidence from which we know not.
    .
    Energy consumption is just a problem that can be dealt with by theoretical science, manufacturing, education, and materials science. All of which still require oil which is yet still abundant.
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    The Sioux are well within their rights and place to protest the location of a pipeline and its risk to their land and families.
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    However oil and its industry has been a unsung boon to their security for decades and is due to either be replaced or improved. Infrastructure that is valuable to them and they should demand of fine quality in on or around their land.
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    To blame oil for the future ills of mankind you and yours

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  8. lyle

    Note that Baaken crude is to be preferred to Alberta tar sands crude due the the energy required to produce the Alberta tar sands crude (Keystone Xl). However unless the price of oil stays above $60 I suspect the Keystone XL will likley not be built (At least the part that crosses the border. Keystone would have been smart to cut the Northern Phase into two pieces one that stops in the Baaken and one that goes on to Alberta. But Alberta tar sands crude is no longer economic.
    The point about going to the gulf coast is that is because that is where the refineries are. (Mississipi thru Corpus Christi.) Then you have some in IL and in NJ and adjacent areas. Look at where the shortages occured when the colonial pipeline shut down a couple of years ago from VA thru Eastern TN and into Northern Ala.

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  9. different clue

    If a broad based shoptivist movement of millions could learn which companies receive the DAPL oil and then sell it as product, they could boycott that product coming from those companies which made it out of DAPL-specifically oil. If enough shoptivists did that thoroughly enough for long enough they might be able to render DAPL unusable as a way to send oil. They might be able to get DAPL switched off and entombed as an empty pipeline.

    If everyone knew that every drop of Bakken oil sent through the DAPL pipeline would get boycotted and would be unsellable, eventually the Bakkeneers would give up on trying to ship oil through it. They would go back to shipping Bakken oil by bomb trains. The Standing Rock Lakota would be spared the pollution to come from a Kalamzoo River style pipeline eruption from yet another Enbridge pipeline.
    Whoever had invested in the pipeline and lent to it would lose their money down to zero and would be suitably punished thereby. Perhaps some executives and others would be fired for producing this ultimate result.

    Of course such shoptivism wouldn’t solve the problem of Bakken oil by bomb trains. The only way to do that would be for a hundred million people or more to reduce their standard of oil-based living by enough oil to equal all the oil coming from the Bakken. They would then have to target that oil – use reduction against companies which handle Bakken oil specifically, until no Bakken oil can be sent anywhere by bomb train or bomb truck because no one will buy it. That could be very hard to do.

    But in the meatime, it is certainly possible for a movement of millions to boycott every company that uses Bakken oil coming through the pipeline . . . until the pipeline has to be shut down and written off.
    That is simple enough to do.

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