MINOT, N.D. — I've just finished reading Minnesota author (and North Dakota expatriate) Louise Erdrich's jeremiad against the Enbridge's Line 3 project in The New York Times, and I'm feeling a little confused.
It's not clear that Erdrich knows the Line 3 pipeline already exists. This is not new construction. Enbridge is replacing an existing pipeline that has reached the end of its life cycle. Either Erdrich doesn't know this, which is disconcerting, seeing as how she's sharing her opinion on the project in one of America's most-read publications, or she's dishonestly skirting that fact because it weakens her argument.
Like many other left-wing voices who agitate against pipelines, Erdrich urges less production and use of oil — she accuses the oil industry of "perpetrating a vast ecological crime" — but tells us nothing about what the world might look like without oil.
How would we get around?
Electric vehicles are a dazzling technology, but they aren't affordable or even practical for most Americans — particularly those living in rural settings. The Tesla Model S (retail price $69,420) has the best range of any electric vehicle on the market at 401 miles, meaning you couldn't quite drive from Bismarck to St. Paul in optimal weather conditions (cold diminishes battery efficiency) without needing to stop for a full charge that would take over an hour, assuming you could find a 440V rapid charger, or as much as 12 hours at 220V.
Don't get me wrong, I think electric vehicles have a bright future, but we need oil in the here and now. Not just because electric vehicles aren't quite ready for primetime, but because our electrical grid isn't ready to replace the energy currently provided by petroleum products.
Unfortunately, our energy grid isn't becoming more resilient. As green politics shut down baseload energy sources like coal and natural gas, wind and solar haven't proven up to the task of replacing them.
Case in point, California's struggles to keep the lights on this year.
"California's aggressive push to abandon natural gas for solar, wind and other renewable sources to meet its goals of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide blamed for rising global temperatures has left the state vulnerable to outages during heat waves as the sun sets and solar power fades," the San Jose Mercury News reported in August.
In our region, an aggressive push toward heavily subsidized wind energy has left us similarly vulnerable. At least three times since 2018, our regional power grid has run out of energy. That gap was filled by electricity borrowed from neighboring grids, but blackouts were avoided only because those grids had the energy to spare.
Thanks to politics and left-wing environmentalism, our energy grid is struggling to keep up with current demand.
Erdrich and other shallow-minded opponents of oil production believe the grid can replace all of the petroleum-based energy we currently rely on.
Maybe they think we just need to build a few more wind turbines.
These are not people who have spent a lot of time thinking about their arguments. Or maybe they just don't care. After all, if you're a famous novelist or a Hollywood activist, the cost of getting around is trivial.
The undeniable truth is that oil and gas are commodities our society needs. Every single one of you reading this use oil and gas every day to heat your homes and power your vehicles, which are just the two most prominent uses.
You are using petroleum products, both directly and indirectly, in hundreds of other ways, too.
I guarantee you that Louise Erdrich is using oil, in one way or another, on the same day she claimed its production is a crime (at least she didn't claim, as fellow celebrity activist Winona LaDuke did, that building a pipeline is like working the ovens at Auschwitz).
Pipelines, meanwhile, are the safest, most efficient way to transport oil.
What sense does it make to oppose their construction?
Or, in the case of Line 3, their prudent and timely replacement?
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.