Iowa's Proposed Bakken Pipeline

Bakken Pipeline Proposed RouteThe Great March for Climate Action left Nebraska, entering Iowa on Wednesday. Their focus turns briefly from stopping the Keystone XL pipeline from the Tar Sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, to what has been dubbed as the Iowa Bakken Pipeline.

While their numbers are small, the message of the Great March is big. Stop the Iowa Bakken Pipeline.

What is the Bakken?

On Jan. 24, T. Boone Pickens appeared on Iowa Press where he recounted the success of the Obama Administration on reducing U.S. reliance upon foreign oil. He framed a discussion of the Bakken.

James Lynch of Source Media: “I guess you oppose exporting our domestic fuel?”

Pickens: “I don’t, no I’m not opposed to exporting products.  We’re exporting now about three million barrels a day of products out of the United States.  But what has happened is your refineries are set to process Middle East crude.  Why did that happen?  Because ten years ago, fifteen years ago we thought in America you were going to rely more and more on OPEC crude. So the refineries tried to get ahead of it, they designed and did a good job and they’re the best refiners in the world today.  But they would rather see heavy crude come into them instead of light sweet because we thought we were going out of the light sweet business.  That all changed with the Bakken, the Eagle Ford and West Texas, we got light sweet again.  So what do we do?  I’d leave it up to refiners to figure that out.  But I would start to cut down on the OPEC crude, take the Keystone Pipeline but that will get you a lot of crude that would fit American refining right now.”

The trouble is that the U.S. is producing so much light, sweet crude oil that refineries are not rigged to handle it. Hence the need for export, refining capacity and pipelines to move the oil and natural gas.

The Bakken is a region in Montana, North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba that has been developed to produce oil and natural gas. The Des Moines Register has written about the Bakken pipeline here and here.

Bruce Braley weighed in on the Bakken on Iowa Press.

Lynch: One of the other issues that the President raised in his inaugural address was climate change, meeting the challenge of climate change.  But how do we break that dependence on fossil fuels, including coal, without a carbon tax or some other mechanism that is going to raise the cost of heat and light for Iowans who depend so heavily on coal?

Braley: Well, one of the good things about the year end deal that we voted on is that it provided some strong incentives in a host of different areas trying to address the issue of climate change, how we become more energy efficient, how we diversify our energy portfolio including a one year extension of the wind energy production tax credit, a lot of energy efficiency tax credits.  But if you look to the west of Iowa you’ll see this playing out in the state of North Dakota right now with the Bakken Shale development.  People forget that North Dakota, while in addition to having this huge new oil resource, also has the number one wind energy potential of any state in the country.  And they are not even in the top ten in wind energy production because we don’t have a grid that is capable of taking that energy and getting it to places that need it.

Is the U.S. in a new era of fossil fuel abundance characterized by the Bakken? Raymond Pierrehumbert at Slate doesn’t think so.

Referring to an article by Leonardo Maugeri,  Pierrehumbert wrote, “so what’s wrong with this story? Maugeri’s problems begin but don’t end with an arithmetic blunder so dumb (he compounded a percentage decline incorrectly) it would make even Steve Levitt blush. The geeky geological stuff discussed at the American Geophysical Union (conference) session (referred to in the article) is more interesting and ultimately more damning. The geological considerations expose a number of common threads of faulty reasoning that pervade the current crop of starry-eyed projections of endless oil abundance.

Science isn’t perfect, but the political exigency of an Iowa Bakken Pipeline is real.

The Great March says stop the Iowa Bakken pipeline. They are highlighting their opposition as they cross Iowa during the next couple of weeks, and they aren’t alone. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is organizing to oppose it. Learn more and sign the Iowa CCI petition here.

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