The protests at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota have brought attention to the proposed 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline.
Listing grievances such as the desecration of sacred burial sites and potential dangers to drinking water, the Sioux of Standing Rock and their thousands of sympathizers have collided head-on with law enforcement in an effort to halt the construction of the oil pipeline.
While the 7.4 billion barrels of oil and increased energy self-sufficiency are enticing to many Americans, the fallout from the pipeline’s construction will last much longer than the billions of barrels of oil drawn from the reserve. This pipeline will not only perpetuate the marginalization of Native American peoples and their rights, but it will also create an environmental catastrophe, which is what I will focus on.
One of the claims that pipeline advocates make for the construction of the pipeline is that by having access to an immense domestic supply of oil, we can become more self-sufficient in our energy needs and wean off our reliance on foreign oil.
This is a valid argument, and that being said, the pipeline could initially be great for the American economy, creating thousands of jobs and lowering the cost of oil and gas. But the benefits can only last for so long.
By creating the pipeline, we will also create millions of pounds of carbon emissions, potentially devastate the land of Native Americans and deplete a major source of domestic oil, which will eventually force us to search for new oil reserves elsewhere. The result is a paradox of energy self-reliance. The Dakota Access Pipeline would allow us to continue investing in finite fossil fuels for less capital, causing our increased self-reliance to only be a temporary gain before we inevitably return to foreign oil after depleting all of our reserves, defeating the whole notion of self-reliance.
Because domestic oil is cheaper, weaning off foreign oil actually dissuades us from improving renewable energy technology and developing a renewable energy infrastructure that would allow us to be completely energy self-sufficient for much longer than the amount of oil in the reserves of the Bakken Formation.
If Americans want to look forward, we should leave the Dakota Access Pipeline behind. The long-term effects of constructing the pipeline are far worse than any immediate benefit.
Continuing to invest in the use of fossil fuels is only exacerbating the effects of anthropomorphic climate change, and in order to undo some of the immense damage humans have caused on this planet, we must look for ways that minimize the mass production of carbon emissions.
By investing in the development of a renewable energy infrastructure, we would have many of the same benefits as constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline. It would create thousands of jobs, increase energy self-sufficiency, reduce human impact on the environment and secure resources for future generations.
Preventing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline could be one of the most important steps the U.S. makes towards creating a safer, more sustainable future for all people.