ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

No matter what, oil will move

No matter where opinions fall regarding the American Indian protest of a pipeline project near the Missouri River in North Dakota, this much is certain: Oil will flow to markets one way or another. That's a given. It is guaranteed by national and...

No matter where opinions fall regarding the American Indian protest of a pipeline project near the Missouri River in North Dakota, this much is certain: Oil will flow to markets one way or another. That's a given. It is guaranteed by national and global demand for North Dakota crude oil and the products refined from crude. No protest, legitimate or otherwise, will alter that reality.

Recommended for you

At least two major currents are shaping the protests. The first is traditional Native concern about sacred lands and treaty rights. The second is rabid anti-fossil fuels sentiment championed by environmentalists who want to cripple the oil and gas industry at any cost.

On the first point: It's gotten to the point where anyone even remotely associated with a tribe can say a site is "sacred" and few, if any, in the scientific community, will challenge the assertion. Savvy university academics bend their research to fit the Native narrative in order to avoid conflict; and, of course, that's where the grant money is these days.

On the second point: The anti-oil environmental crowd has found a useful ally in the tribes. Native opposition to pipelines is a powerful factor in the environmentalists' equation. It can be argued that tribal leaders and protesters are being used-that their voices have been cleverly appropriated to advance the larger anti-fossil fuels campaign.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ironically, one of the tribes involved in the protest occupies a reservation that is one of the most productive places in the vast Bakken oil play. The tribe and individual tribal members have been accumulating astonishing wealth because of oil. However, their oil would be worth little if it could not be transported to buyers. The only way to move oil is by railroad, truck and - yes - pipeline. Pipeline is by far the safest and, in most instances, the least expensive.

It's worth wondering why Native protesters are not blocking oil trains on bridges over the Missouri River, or turning back oil tanker trucks on highways that cross Native lands. Both modes pose far greater risk to land and water than state-of-the-art, deep-buried pipelines.

It's gone beyond logic and common sense. Protest leaders say if a federal judge allows pipeline construction to resume, they will not abandon the protest. So the rule of law apparently is meaningless. Federal, state and local law enforcement-clearly not looking for confrontation-will be obliged to act if protesters abandon non-violent civil disobedience and attempt to prevent pipeline workers from going to work.

But the oil will move to markets. How it moves is the only question. As safely as possible in pipelines, or less safely by truck and rail?

Editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.

What To Read Next