Don't Ignore Inland Oil Issues

In the aftermath of the BP oil spill, lawmakers have, understandably, focused on sweeping reforms of offshore-drilling protocols. But no matter how worried we are about the rigs, we can’t ignore our inland oil issues.

To scoot energy around the country, companies operate enough pipeline in the U.S. to circle the globe 100 times, and it’s these aging, underregulated tubes that cause most problems, according to a new report I coauthored for the National Wildlife Federation. We reviewed a decade of government records and press reports and found at least 2,500 significant pipeline accidents, including 161 fatalities and hundreds of injuries—more mishaps and carnage than in all deepwater-drilling exploration combined.

Naturally, the incidents happen where the energy is. Texas had a national high of 523 pipeline accidents in the last decade (including a blast last year near Amarillo that shook houses and melted window blinds). The issue is the economics of leaks and explosions, which remain cheaper to mop up than to prevent with better maintenance. Unless regulators change that—by lifting the liability cap on all energy disasters, for example—there will be continued cause for concern.

Warman runs the federation’s Global Warming Solutions Program.

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