At the core of the debate about the Line 3 Replacement project is a simple, yet incredibly important question. Winona LaDuke asked it again in her April 9th column. Who needs this pipeline?

The answer is simple, direct, supported by facts, reviewed be regulators, and backed up by reality. Minnesota needs this pipeline. It is that simple and important.

The other bluster, noise and misdirection to try to focus on something other than this important fact is a desperate and continued attempt to ignore the core reality.

This is why four times Minnesota Public Utility Commissioners have unanimously voted yes to Line 3. Their last “yes” came after being asked by the Minnesota Department of Commerce to ignore the fact that the current Line 3 is old and needs to be replaced. Public Utilities Commissioner Katie Sieben called this nonsensical.

The facts and evidence related to Line 3 and this issue are so clear that the answer to the main question has not and will not change. Yet LaDuke and others keep asking because they want an answer that fits their rhetoric. She claims, “This oil is not coming to Minnesota,” but that isn’t true. The facts are as clear as a train car on a track.

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Significant volumes of oil are currently moving through Minnesota cities on rail cars. Just ask the people in northwestern Minnesota about how many oil trains per day they are dealing with. Pipelines are safer and more efficient than trains. It takes less energy to ship oil through a pipeline than it does by using a train engine. What’s important to realize is the oil will get to market on a train if there is not enough pipeline capacity to carry it.

Canada is exporting record of amounts of oil to the United States as production continues to stay close to record levels in North Dakota. The market is producing more oil without adding any new oil pipelines to the system.

Canada is now buying more rail cars as the amount of oil shipped by train reaches new records. This is why earlier this year public safety leaders were concerned about the increase in the number of tanker cars filled with oil being shipped across Minnesota.

Minnesota has two oil refineries that make the gas, jet fuel, diesel and other related products we use and depend on every day. The vast majority of the oil they refine comes from Canada by pipeline. This means anytime you fly out of the Minneapolis airport, chances are Line 3 has helped get you where you are going.

Then there is the reality of Minnesota’s role in the national energy system. The Minnesota House of Representative research shows that 30% of all this oil used in in the United States comes through Minnesota.

Again, this oil will travel by pipeline or train. All the other information, questions, projections, or hopes of a new green economy in the future does not change the core fact that Minnesota needs to replace Line 3 with a modern, state-of-the-art pipeline to supply our needs and protect our environment. It’s that simple and that important.

I respect the passion and commitment LaDuke and others have to their view of this issue, but it stops after repeated attempts to ignore fact, data and reality. Making up facts or throwing together any and other ideas in hopes that it will change our reality is disingenuous and disrespectful.

Minnesota needs Line 3. We need more pipeline capacity and less oil on trains. The choice is between the two, and for me it continues to be an easy decision and its why the answer to this question is so important.

Olson is a member of Minnesotans for Line 3’s Advisory Council and is also the president of United Piping. Minnesotansforline3.com