A Few Thoughts On: The Dakota Pipelines 8

As you may have noticed (or may not have), I haven’t posted anything in awhile. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to: I have. There really are just two reasons why I haven’t.

Reason #1: I’m working on a book. It’s a satire that looks at the U.S.A. in about 200 years, based on my own extrapolation of the worst-case scenario springing from a Trump presidency. It is a LOT of fun to write.

Reason #2: I’ve just been too pissed off. I find it kind of hard to be funny or thoughtful when I’m angry and, while I would dearly love to just come unglued here and just really cut loose, that’s not what I want this blog to be about. I’m not here to make you angry, not here to start a fight. I’m here to try to make you laugh, and/or make you think. While there are people who are really good at venting entertainingly, generally it seems they end up just venting to the choir which, while entertaining, isn’t really very productive.

Anyway, that’s why this blog is called Moonsthoughts, instead of Moonsrants.

But enough of that. Today, someone asked me what I think about the Dakota pipelines so, like it or not, I’m gonna tell you.

I’m against them: vehemently against them, and for much the same reasons I’m against fracking, and drilling for oil in National Parks. Because it is stupid, short-sighted, destructive, greedy, and keeps not only us, but the world, reliant on what I think is becoming outdated and obsolete technology that is doing much more harm to the environment than it is benefiting anyone (except the rich, that is).

Point 1.

The Dakota pipelines will run under both the Missouri and the Platte rivers, and through the Oglalla aquifer, all of which are major sources of water in the west. Oil pipelines leak. If the Dakota pipelines leak, which is pretty much inevitable at some point in the future, they could contaminate the drinking water of much of the west. In 2016, there were 297 pipeline incidents deemed “significant”. To be significant, one or more of the following conditions has to be met: https://hip.phmsa.dot.gov/analyticsSOAP/saw.dll?Portalpages   

  1. Fatality or injury requiring in-patient hospitalization
  2. $50,000 or more in total costs, measured in 1984 dollars
  3. Highly volatile liquid releases of 5 barrels or more or other liquid releases of 50 barrels or more
  4. Liquid releases resulting in an unintentional fire or explosion

In 2016, those incidents amounted to 16 fatalities, 80 injuries, and cost $273,376,637.00, and 2016 was a fairly average year (1997-present).

The original route for at least one of the pipelines was changed, partly because of the risk of contaminating the water supply of Bismark, N.D. Now Bismark wasn’t the only reason for re-routing the pipeline, but the other reasons were environmentally or safety-based as well: http://www.snopes.com/dapl-routed-through-standing-rock-after-bismarck-residents-said-no/  If you don’t trust Snopes, here’s the Bismark Tribune’s story on it: http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/pipeline-route-plan-first-called-for-crossing-north-of-bismarck/article_64d053e4-8a1a-5198-a1dd-498d386c933c.html It is also notable, I think, that the Congressional Research Service noted that, “In general, however, Bakken crude oil is much more volatile than other types of crude.” It is definitely not the sort of thing I would want running through my water supply (although I’ll grant you that there is every chance that there is already a pipeline running through my water supply somewhere – I’m not happy about that either).

Anyway, the point is that pipelines leak, and that running them under or through the major sources of water for the Great Plains seems pretty freaking stupid to me.

Point 2:

They are, by and large, unnecessary. It’s not like all that oil is just being stored until the pipelines are built. Those oil fields have been active since the 1950’s, and they’ve got the oil to market, enough to make Harold Hamm, the first guy to lease those fields, a billionaire.

Now, I will grant you that moving oil via pipeline may be safer and more economical than moving it by truck. In fact, here’s a Forbe’s article that shows just how hard it can be to decide which form of transport is safer: Forbes article One of the things I thought was significant in that article was that in two of the three short-answer scenarios, pipelines came in second-worst, and in the chart farther down in the story (which is taken from the Congressional Research Service), pipelines were again the silver-medal winner for most oil spilled in all three time periods charted (although it did tie for second-worst in one). In fact, rail transport looks significantly safer (of course, it’s probably not nearly as cheap).

Point 3:

I don’t believe all that crap about the pipelines creating 28,000 new jobs, especially “good construction jobs”. A state department report estimated that it would create either 4,000 or 2,000 construction jobs, depending on whether it was built in 1 year or 2. Granted there would be jobs created to support the construction workers, but how many of those would be left when the pipelines are completed and require only about 50 people to operate it? That’s the whole point of the pipeline: TO SAVE MONEY!!!!! Of course, I could be wrong. God knows that the oil industry is famed for its willing to sacrifice for the good of the country and its citizens.

Point 4:

Finally, oil is on its way to becoming largely obsolete, or at least it should be: with the advances being made in renewable energy like solar and wind (they’re also finding ways of generating energy using the ocean tides, and even electricity-producing plankton. Don’t ask me how it works, I’m an English geek, not a science wonk), if we made a national effort, like the one we made to get to the moon, we could significantly reduce our independence on oil, regardless of whether it’s foreign or domestic. That means less pollution, better national security (no more worries about losing our sources of energy, and as far as terrorism goes, its a lot less damaging to have a windmill or field of solar panels broken or blown up than a refinery or pipeline), less power in the hands of utilities and power companies, and more power in the hands of the people (literally and figuratively).

Of course, it’s naive to think we’ll be able to get off of oil completely, at least any time soon. As far as I know, there is currently no electric motor that can push a truck or a freight train (although I read that Germany is trying out a hydrogen-powered passenger train on one line, with plans to expand it if it works out). It seems to me though, that a concerted effort to switch to renewable energy wherever possible and feasible (such as personal transportation, residential power needs, etc.) will be much more beneficial for us individually and collectively. As it is, it seems like we are dragging our heels while other nations are taking the lead, and making the progress that we could and should be making.

But wait! I hear you say, “What about all the poor oil, gas, and coal workers who will lose their jobs?” Yes, I answer, that is a valid concern. However, I don’t think that blacksmiths, farriers, liveries and other horse-based industries were all that excited about the advent of the automobile. Look around you now. How many of those jobs still exist? Basically none. However, the advent of new technology has pretty much always produced new jobs to replace those rendered obsolete. Another consideration is automation. As industries, including the fossil fuel industries become more and more automated, how many of those oil, gas, and coal workers are going to lose their jobs anyway?

We are, I believe, on the cusp of a technical revolution that will change the world just as much as the industrial revolution did. Resistance is not only futile, in the case of fossil fuels, it is also stupid.


Well, that’s pretty much it as far as my thoughts on the Dakota pipelines in particular, and fossil fuels in general, go. You may have noticed that I failed to mention anything about the tribal lands or ancestral burying grounds. To me, that is more of a matter of sentiment. I absolutely respect the protesters in N. Dakota, and what they’re doing: they have my full support (whatever that’s worth), because I believe that they are absolutely correct, and I am amazed at the resilience, courage, and restraint they’ve shown in persevering through not only unbelievably harsh winter conditions, but also unbelievably unjust and un-American abuse at the hands of law enforcement. There can be no justification for using water cannons, tear gas, concussion grenades, or bullets (whether rubber or lead), on peaceful protesters standing up for their rights. It is damned un-American, in my opinion, and a national shame.

Even so, like I said, the tribal lands and burial ground thing is basically a matter of sentiment, and sentiment is not going to win this fight. We have a long tradition of screwing over Native people for profit. Sentiment is not going to stop it. I’m hoping that reason will.

Finally, feel free to let me know what you think. I always welcome comments and civil discussion. As always, thanks for reading!

8 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts On: The Dakota Pipelines

  1. Reply Kimmy Waggoner Feb 10,2017 1:04 am

    Excellent. I wish I could forward this to everyone involved. I admire you very much for taking the time to write it out like this. I have a much better understanding of it all now, and I agree with everything you wrote.

  2. Reply Steven Petersheim Feb 10,2017 1:25 pm

    Good stuff, Lloyd. Very good stuff! I like the way you take on the economic/technological argument because you’re right — if American history shows us anything, it’s that these are the kinds of arguments that usually win in the end. That said, I do think we can think of the tribal lands argument as more than mere sentiment. It’s also a matter of robbery and “driving down the value” of the land in the area. While as a nation we have a bad history of not caring about such things if we are the economic “winners” (even if just in the short term), I think at least some matters of injustice are about more than sentiment. But overall I am totally with you, and I admire your well-constructed contribution to the ongoing economic argument. Kudos to you!

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com Feb 10,2017 1:35 pm

      Thanks man! I really appreciate it, and the main reason I consider the tribal lands thing as sentiment is that technically, the pipeline runs through private lands, missing the reservation. Using the “tribal lands” argument just gives the other side a handle to vilify and discredit the brave people who are literally putting their lives on the line to fight this. The oil interests have all the power and influence that money can buy (which clearly includes government support). Helping them to position themselves as the defenders of property rights not only plays into their hands, it’s one of the things they can, and do, use to sway the average citizen to their side. The only thing the protesters really have is their bodies and their lives, and the fact that they are right.

  3. Reply Amanda Byrd Feb 10,2017 2:06 pm

    This is great, Lloyd! Thought-provoking and packed with facts. Not just opinion. I will be sharing.

  4. Reply Ellen Feb 18,2017 4:01 pm

    Thanks for the information, as with most issues nowadays there seems to be no easy answers. There will always be two sides to a story, those for the pipeline and those against. I guess the only comment I have is whenever there is money involved common sense goes out the window. Thanks for taking the time to write.

    I just came across your writing piece on being the World’s Worst Grandpa, hilarious!!! Thanks for making me laugh.

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com Feb 22,2017 11:12 pm

      Hey Ellen, glad you liked it. You’re right, there are no easy answers, but I believe that there are right answers, if we only have the courage to make them.

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