By Brett Walton
Until two years ago, when the National Wildlife Federation pointed out their presence, the twin oil pipelines beneath the fast-flowing channel that connects Lake Michigan to Lake Huron were like nearly every other piece of North America’s energy transport network. The 61-year-old steel pipelines, owned and managed apparently without incident by Enbridge Inc., a Canadian pipeline operator, attracted virtually no attention from citizens or Michigan’s state government.
Those days are over. A remarkable and unexpected surge in continental production of oil and natural gas is reshaping domestic and global energy markets, dropping prices for gasoline, raising employment in the energy and manufacturing sectors, and prompting civic concerns about the risks to water, land, and communities.
The North American fossil fuel bonanza also is directing more attention than ever before to the management, safety, and disruptive changes in the pipeline and rail transport systems that ship oil and gas to market.
The continent’s new energy reserves — from Alberta and Saskatchewan to the Dakotas, Montana, Colorado, Texas, and the U.S. East — are located in areas not well connected to the conventional markets, refineries, and customers developed in 20th century, or to the growing 21st century roster of terminals under construction for exporting fuels.Read more