We Still Don't Need Any More Oil or Gas Pipelines

A new report confirms what we've known for a while: the U.S. has more than enough pipelines.

A new report confirms what we've known for a while: the U.S. has more than enough pipelines.

Almost four years ago, my former NRDC colleague Montina Cole blogged that the U.S. already had more than double the gas pipeline capacity needed on an average day. Meaning more than half the pipeline space, on average, was not being utilized. In 2018, I blogged that gas company CEOs agreed. Even on some of the coldest days of winter, the U.S. has had enough gas capacity to meet consumer demand. Gas price spikes, sometimes blamed on pipeline capacity, are more typically due to inflexibility in the pipeline system that prevents a rapid response to changing conditions, such as pipeline owners being allowed to restrict gas flow on their pipelines. As a spokesman for gas company Range Resources said a few years back, "Historically, every play gets overbuilt."

Turns out, overbuild is similar for oil pipelines. For example, Energy Transfer is one of the largest pipeline companies in the U.S. and the owner of Dakota Access Pipeline, which was permitted despite disregard for Tribal rights and treaties, and Mariner East 2, a natural gas liquids pipeline under construction in Pennsylvania that is linked to contamination of drinking water sources for dozens of families, dangerous sinkholes in residential areas, and 320 spills. Just earlier this year, the Chief Commercial Officer of Energy Transfer stated that "the crude pipeline .... industry is so good at .... overbuilding" and "all of us have overbuilt." Sound familiar?

Now a new report finds that, overall, only about half of all U.S. oil pipeline capacity is used. It's clear the U.S. doesn't need any more oil or gas pipelines, particularly when we are supposed to be getting off fossil fuels and prioritizing investment in clean energy. The harms to clean water, the climate, communities, Tribal rights, environmental justice, and private property rights should not be sacrificed for profit plays by oil and gas corporations, particularly when there is no legitimate domestic need for new pipelines.

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