The United States is the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world. This production provides more than half of the 19 million barrels of crude oil consumed by American motorists, businesses and consumers. The shortfall in supply is met by imports, relying first and foremost on Canada as our No. 1 supplier.
By the same token, Minnesota is a net importer of refined petroleum products like gasoline. These imports are necessary to meet demand beyond the production of the two refineries located in the state. In fact, refineries located in Wisconsin, North Dakota, Illinois and Indiana provide hundreds of millions of gallons of gasoline, diesel and other fuels that are derived from crude oil that originates in Canada and North Dakota’s Bakken region.
The pipeline infrastructure that transports crude oil across Minnesota to refineries is vital to the state and its citizens. Millions of barrels of crude oil are shipped to Pine Bend and St. Paul Park or through Minnesota to places like Whiting, Indiana. Refineries located in these communities return it to the state as refined fuel. As a result, we believe that it is in the best interests of Minnesotans to enhance our pipeline infrastructure by replacing Enbridge’s Line 3. A replacement for Line 3 has been deemed necessary by the federal government. It will also have a higher supply capacity reducing pressure on oil-by-rail, the primary alternative for crude oil that most certainly won’t be left in the ground in North Dakota and Canada.
However, recently the Minnesota Department of Commerce issued a report that suggested there was no need for the replacement of Enbridge’s Line 3, claiming that somehow local refineries can meet the need without it. The report glosses over the fact that this replacement has been deemed necessary; and, local refiners have publicly supported it.
The need to replace Line 3 is obvious, but it is also necessary for energy security reasons. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, we have become all too familiar with the impact of natural disasters on energy infrastructure. In 2005, supply problems resulting from disruptions in the Gulf region reached Minnesota markets with gasoline prices surging over $3 per gallon. However, following the hurricanes of recent weeks, which had similar and disastrous impacts on infrastructure in the Gulf, fuel prices increased but not to the extent experienced from Katrina.
Today, greater access to Canadian and Bakken crude oil insulates Minnesota to some degree from reliance on crude oil that used to be supplied by pipelines from the south. Line 3 and similar pipelines traversing the state are critical tools to meet our energy needs. Moreover, Enbridge is willing to spend over $2 billion to replace it, and the outcome of this investment will be greater energy security.
The equivalent of over 10 Line 3 replacements have been built in this country in the last decade. Like Line 3, decisions about siting these projects addressed environmental concerns, economic impacts and proximity to towns and cities. Line 3 is the best option that balances these serious considerations. Once in operation, Line 3 will be a state-of-the-art pipeline with multiple layers of safety monitoring.
Erin Roth is executive director of the Minnesota Petroleum Council.