Pipelines or Oil Trains? No Thanks: I’ll take clean energy

This week, I had the honor to be a panel member on a webcast along with Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth and Jane Kleeb from Bold Alliance. We were looking at pipelines and oil trains and lessons learned from successful fights to stop both—and how to continue to succeed with a hostile Trump Administration in power. Winona and Jane provided smart, clear-eyed explanations of what’s at stake with both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline fights.

For many of us dealing with the oil industry, our neighbors and friends are asking us the same question:

"Well, if you oppose pipelines, do you support oil trains?"

Or, the reverse:

"If you oppose oil trains, then you’re in favor of pipelines, right? "

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At the root of this question is a false assumption, one that is all but invisible: The “pipelines or oil trains” question can only be asked if we accept the idea that oil-related infrastructure must grow. And that simply isn’t the case.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time you had trouble getting gas to fill up your car? Not since 1973, right? That’s because the world is currently awash in oil. Per capita consumption of oil is going down and oil producing countries are throttling back their production to keep prices from completely bottoming out.

If we have access to all the oil we need right now, why is the industry asking us to make a choice between different types of new oil infrastructure like pipelines and oil trains? It’s simple: greedy oil companies want access to more diverse and more lucrative markets. The more channels they have to move their oil, the more profit they can make at our expense.

Simply put, expanded dirty oil infrastructure—if we allow it to go forward—is not for us, but mostly for overseas markets. As Jane Kleeb keeps reminding us, each one of these oil pipeline and train projects is “all risk, no reward”. We need new pipelines carrying water to the residents in places like Flint, Michigan, and we need new trains carrying people and goods all across North America. But we don’t need pipelines and oil trains carrying explosive, toxic crude oil that endangers our health, our communities, and our climate.

We know for a fact that most of the remaining oil needs to stay in the ground if we’re going to meet the climate commitments the world made in Paris. So it’s wrong to ask us to choose between different types of dirty energy infrastructure we don’t even need. 

The real choice is simple: we need to say “no” to all new fossil fuel infrastructure and say “yes” to clean, renewable energy.

Fight the False Choice Webinar Recording