NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Trans-Alaska Pipeline Debate Sounds a Lot Like Keystone XL

December 2, 2014

The Keystone XL pipeline would bring 830,000 barrels of oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico each day, but President Obama has repeatedly refused to support the pipeline, expressing concern that it would have a negative impact on the environment. In a new report for the Heritage Foundation, Stephen Moore and Joel Griffith explain that similar claims were made about another pipeline -- the Trans-Alaska Pipeline -- in the 1970s, but the arguments were proven false.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline was first proposed in 1969 but wasn't approved until 1973. The plan was to build an 800-mile pipeline that would carry oil from northern to southern Alaska for distribution in the rest of the United States. But environmental groups objected, insisting the pipeline could be destroyed by earthquakes and could hurt wildlife populations.

In fact, write Moore and Griffith, the pipeline was a success -- the area's ecosystems remained strong, the pipeline survived a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in 2002 and oil spills (which were small, at just 1,151 barrels per year throughout the entire pipeline) were easily contained. Moreover, the country's caribou population actually grew after the construction of the pipeline, growing 13 percent from 1976 to 1990; while caribou numbers have declined somewhat in recent years, the population remains four times larger than it was when the pipeline was constructed.

Moreover, the authors note the remarkable economic impact of the pipeline: it was responsible for one-fifth of all American energy production for the two decades after 1980 and still transports 500,000 barrels of oil each day.

The arguments against the Trans-Alaska Pipeline were discredited, write Moore and Griffith, yet they note that the same arguments are being used to denounce the Keystone XL proposal.

Source: Stephen Moore and Joel Griffith, "The Trans-Alaska Pipeline: Lessons for the Keystone XL Pipeline Debate," Heritage Foundation, November 18, 2014. 

 

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