By Michael Lynch, Forbes, December 5, 2016
The government’s decision to halt the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline will hearten its many opponents, but will have no significant practical effect. If anything, this represents a victory of image over reality, despite the claims of native Americans, Hollywood stars and veterans. It seems as if very little logic has been applied to the question, and unsupported claims are repeated ad nauseum in the media.
Some have broader goals than simply changing the pipeline route. Climate change activist Bill McKibben said “We cannot pump more oil. Frontline communities, and particularly indigenous people, have been in the forefront of this climate fight.” Some on-site protesters agree, with Faith Gemmel saying, “We strongly feel that fossil fuels should be left in the ground, and this country and all countries need to start moving toward sustainable and renewable energies.” Unfortunately, this attitude is contradicted by the protesters own reliance on gasoline fired automobiles and, with the onset of winter, propane for heating. Photos showing protesters on horseback, but with lines of parked cars behind them, belie the supposed opposition to fossil fuel use.
Fears that the pipeline would threaten the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s only water source are highlighted by the opponents’ claim to the title “water protectors” which would more appropriately be “water protectors from oil carried by one particular pipeline but no other pollutants or train-carried oil.” This is a classic case of branding which disguises the reality. The pipeline is, after all, intended to reduce the usage of rail transport of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields, and there is little reason to believe the river will be any cleaner without it.