Life as we know it would not be possible without petroleum to fuel our vehicles, farm equipment and airplanes, as well as to make medicines, synthetic fabrics, lubricants, tires, and plastics for computers, cellphones and many other products we use in our day-to-day lives.
A commentary (“Stop tar sands extraction; stop pipelines,” Sept. 6) conveyed “solutions” to global problems that ignore the reality and complexity of our current North American energy use and needs. While we can all agree on the value of protecting our natural resources, it is important that the dialogue about North American energy resource needs and the efficient and safe transportation of those resources through pipelines be factual and grounded in reality.
It’s important to note that the U.S. Department of Transportation credits pipelines as the safest, most reliable and most efficient method of transporting liquid petroleum products. Pipelines require significantly less energy to operate than trucks or rail and have a much lower carbon footprint.
Enbridge has transported oil to and within the U.S. for decades. Enbridge pipelines provide a vital link between oil producing regions in Canada and North Dakota and refineries in Minnesota, Wisconsin and other North American markets. In doing so, we transport nearly 80 percent of the crude oil refined right here in Minnesota and 100 percent in Wisconsin. Ultimately, the vast majority of the crude oil transported on Enbridge pipelines is returned to Minnesota, Wisconsin and consumers elsewhere in the U.S. in the form of gasoline and other petroleum-based products people use every day.
Following the release on our system near Kalamazoo, Mich., in 2010, Enbridge immediately accepted responsibility. We have spent $1.2 billion on restoration in the area. We appreciate that the authors of the Sept. 6 commentary note the success of our cleanup efforts to date in acknowledging that the Kalamazoo River appears clean. It is clean and the river has been fully restored.
But Enbridge has done more than its efforts in Michigan. We have made our entire system safer. Since 2010, we’ve invested more than $5 billion in maintenance and integrity programs, and we’ve executed the largest, most comprehensive integrity management program of any pipeline system in the world using the most sophisticated inspection tools available.
Pipeline spills are not inevitable. Our No. 1 one priority is safety and the protection of the environment, and our ultimate goal is zero releases. In 2015, Enbridge pipelines delivered more than 2.8 billion barrels of crude oil and liquids through our systems to customers in Canada and the U.S. with a 99.999999 percent success rate. While very good, it’s still not good enough to us. Our goal remains 100 percent, which we continue to work hard to achieve.
Pipelines are one of the most heavily regulated U.S. industries, undergoing rigorous regulatory reviews from a variety of government agencies, from initial permitting to operation and, ultimately, deactivation.
Canada’s oil sands help supply the secure, stable source of energy that North America will require during the transition to more renewable forms of energy. In fact, at Enbridge, it’s our traditional businesses — the transportation of oil and gas — that are generating the capital that has enabled us to invest $5 billion in wind, solar and geothermal facilities in North America. Our goal is to double that investment.
Enbridge supports a balanced discussion of this important resource issue based on the facts. On average, oil from Alberta’s oil sands produces comparable and, in some cases, lower greenhouse-gas emissions than equivalent oil from other sources in the world. Alberta’s oil sands account for one-tenth of 1 percent of total global greenhouse-gas emissions, and they produce just 1 percent of the global greenhouse gas emitted by the power generation sector in the U.S.
Protecting our climate, safeguarding our waterways and communities, and ensuring the health of our families and future generations is vitally important to all of us. Our goal is the safe and reliable transportation of North American resources as we provide the energy that fuels our economy today and into the future.
Brad Shamla is vice president of U.S. operations for Enbridge Energy.