Op-ed: Construction of pipelines will be disastrous

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Over the past few years, intensive debate over the pros and cons pertaining to the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines has turned Congress into a war zone. These massive projects were proposed with the intent of strengthening the American economy, potentially creating thousands of jobs and decreasing energy dependence on foreign nations. However, the members of Northeastern’s environmental protection club, Husky Environmental Action Team (HEAT), believe these pipelines will lead to absolutely catastrophic environmental and ethical consequences which heavily outweigh their economic benefits.  

In recent years, former President Barack Obama has done a great job in halting these projects, but with the recent exchange of power, the fate of our beautiful planet has taken a turn for the worse.

Within his first four days in office, President Donald J. Trump (it pains me to associate the man with such a title), has taken swift action to reverse the Obama administration’s crusade against carbon emissions. On Tuesday, the hearts of millions of environmental activists sank after Trump signed executive orders approving construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Although construction is not guaranteed, these executive orders will make it significantly easier to approve the pipelines, especially with the current conservative majority in Congress.

President Trump completely denies the existence of climate change, considering it nothing but a hoax created by the Chinese. With such a narrow perspective, it would be easy to just start building pipelines with all their supposed economic benefits. However, their construction is a much more complicated issue than our president makes it out to be.

For one, the operation of these pipelines will contribute huge amounts of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Many researchers, including highly regarded climate scientist James Hansen, call the Keystone pipeline a “carbon bomb.” The actual extraction of oil from tar sands—the source of the pipelines—is a highly labor- and energy-intensive process. Studies have shown that the extraction of crude oil from tar sands releases seventeen percent more carbon emissions than standard oil drilling. On top of the actual operation of the pipelines, the predicted rise in supply of oil after the pipeline’s potential completion will cause the price of gasoline to drop, immensely increasing its availability. This will inevitably result in greater carbon emissions from automobiles nationwide.  

Besides its evident threat to the climate, construction entails serious potential health concerns to those who live in close proximity to pipeline construction. Both the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines are planned to go directly beneath lakes and aquifers that provide local populaces fresh water for farming and drinking. Many fear that these pipelines will leak oil and carcinogenic chemicals, permanently contaminating their water sources.

Peaceful protest is nothing new to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline issues. Currently, groups of activists from the local Sioux reservation at Standing Rock, North Dakota have gathered to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.       

Trump’s main motivation for pipeline construction is its promise of thousands of American jobs. This is good in theory; however, the reality is not nearly as appealing. Yes, construction of these pipelines will indeed provide around 42,000 jobs (3,900 in construction, the rest indirectly). But construction will only last two years, making the vast majority of these jobs temporary. The state department predicts that only around 35 percent of these jobs will be permanent. As for the pipeline itself, upon completion, it will only require 50 workers for maintenance. Clearly, the economic benefits Trump seems to emphasize so fervently are not nearly as great as they’re made out to be.

For a college student, especially a young environmental advocate, these are very trying times to be living in. It is important to remain positive. Even though he is our president, Donald Trump and bigoted shmucks like him do not represent our nation. We do. Look at our time not as the death of America, but as an opportunity to make a difference for the better. Now more than ever, people are assembling to protest and protect what they believe in. Although it may be hard to see, the beauty in adversity and injustice is its tendency to bring out the impeccable strength and compassion in those who refuse to submit to evil.

– Corey Watanabe is a freshman undeclared student and member of HEAT.