Pipeline Industry Needs To Unify Against Pushback

by Robert Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief

And the oil and gas pipeline attacks continue.

Kill the pipelines and severely cripple the inherently evil carbon-based energy industry. That action, in theory, would further encourage development and adoption of planet-saving alternative energy sources. That’s a strategy made possible by the politics of the last eight years, which made a pipeline an international rallying cry for the radical environmental movement.

The oft-delayed and ultimately cancelled Keystone XL Pipeline by the Obama administration brought priceless  publicity to the anti-carbon groups and allowed them precious time to build support; concentrate and coordinate protest and publicity efforts; and ultimately, through the support of their eco-allied president, stop a major portion of the pipeline construction. Of course, alternative energy abilities and more importantly, capabilities, don’t exist yet in volumes even close to approaching real-world needs. But that’s a mere, minor detail in the long-term extremist strategy. Zealots rarely accept facts, problems or issues that would divert their self-proclaimed righteous course.

As has been documented ad nauseam, after Keystone the now organized groups recruited a small Indian tribe and made the completion of an almost-finished pipeline into a cultural war. The Dakota Access Pipeline was no longer just about environmental concerns, which in reality were minor and had been largely ignored initially by the Indian tribes. Suddenly, DAPL had become a focal point of big business perversion ignoring and endangering the heritage and religious beliefs of American Indians.

With Keystone’s preliminary development work starting up again, anti-carbon energy foes are reacting in force, already gathering, staging protests, filing lawsuits – and that’s with TransCanada’s decision on whether or not to even proceed with Keystone still months or more away. If the decision is to move forward with Keystone, it will again be an environmental battle for the ages.

But will the energy industry be up for the fight? Or will Trans-Canada be left alone to wage war against misguided, virulent and sometimes violent opposition alone? Such was the case last go-round. Silence and limited support from the energy industry left TransCanada to battle the vicious, often inaccurate diatribe, and a well-organized and funded propaganda machine.

In 2016 we saw the same scenario play out again with the Dakota Access Pipeline. The principal project owner, Energy Transfer Partners, fought a valiant public relations battle largely in a vacuum – and would have lost the fight after investing billions in the almost-completed construction, if the shocking election of President Trump had not allowed completion of the project. Enterprise is not out of the woods yet, as lawsuits have still been filed to ultimately stop the flow of oil.

Minor partners in the pipeline, Phillips 66, Enbridge and Marathon Petroleum, were conspicuous in their silence during the political ordeal. Maybe that was the smart play. Let someone else shoulder the attacks and absorb the body blows of public accusations.

But is that truly the smart play – or right play – in the long term? If one pipeline, fully documented for need, public safety and environmental soundness, fails, then the next pipeline faces a much tougher path not only to approval, but completion as well. We’re already seeing that across the board. The conception-to-completion time scale has been dramatically expanded. Projects are being attacked the minute they are proposed. We’ve had a flurry of major pipeline project announcements recently and as innocuous as they may be, the road to start-up will be rough and rocky.

Our pipeline industry needs  a unified industry backbone from all companies supported by all oil and gas energy interests to create a collation of truth. Embattled pipelines such as Keystone and DAPL can no longer be isolated to face the Mongol hordes of electronic and printed misinformation, misdirection and mistaken ideology.

This is not limited to just pipeline related companies. The war has spread to all facets of the market. If a pipeline is blocked, what happens ultimately when product cannot find its way to market? All stand to lose, but at the top of the list is the sure-to-be-suffering American people.

We must have a unified effort to counter the misleading PR machines with accurate, factual information. We can stand alone or, unfortunately and unintendedly, fall together.

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