In a groundbreaking new study, researchers at the Sierra Club found that only fossil fuels that are burned after being transported by pipeline have an impact on climate change. Fossil fuels used after being transported by other ground-based means, such as trains, do not have any noticeable effect on climate change, the study said.*
If true, the research will be a boon to environmentalists attempting to block the construction of new pipeline routes across the northern US. Environmentalists have argued that blocking the pipelines is key for helping to mitigate climate change–a claim directly substantiated by this report.
“This is what we’ve been saying all along,” said a leading environmentalist of the findings. (The individual was granted anonymity by The Daily Face Palm to protect their professional reputation from being scrutinized.)
Not everyone is so sure, however. Several scientists expressed guarded skepticism of the report’s conclusions. “It doesn’t make any f***ing sense,” according to Dr. Paul Jackson, a professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Jackson, who still claims to be an environmentalist despite being shunned by most of the field, alleges that burning fossil fuels emits greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, regardless of how those fossil fuels were transported originally. Once emitted, these greenhouse gas emissions would then contribute to climate change.
Dr. Jackson’s claim contradicts the latest study and would have unpleasant implications for the environmental activists opposing the new pipelines based on climate change concerns. If the burning of fossil fuels is the real problem, then transporting the oil by train (which also relies on burning fossil fuels) would itself contribute to climate change, Dr. Jackson said.
It might come out as a wash in the end since less efficient transportation would also make fossil fuels more expensive to end-users and thus might reduce their consumption. But it’s a possibility that stopping the pipelines would actually lead to more greenhouse gas emissions overall, at least if Dr. Jackson’s theory holds any water.
When asked about this possibility, the Sierra Club declined to issue an official statement. They did, however, point out that Dr. Jackson lives in Texas and was possibly in the tanker for the oil industry.
Other environmentalists we spoke to were also unconcerned about Dr. Jackson’s objections. One activist who declined to be named told us she was confident that “If the pipelines are stopped, the oil companies will probably just leave the oil in the ground instead of transporting it another way.” She noted that oil companies are well-known for putting the “planet ahead of profits”.
*The study cited here and all of the individuals and quotations included above are fictional in nature. Obviously, the Sierra Club is real, however, and like other environmental groups, it has opposed the pipeline projects at least partly on the grounds of climate change.
Also, for clarification, The Daily Face Palm is opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Admittedly, I haven’t had the chance to read into groundwater pollution or property rights violations alleged by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. But even without knowing enough to opine on those issues, there is still more than enough cause to oppose DAPL. In particular, they used eminent domain to seize private land elsewhere along the route. There might be other reasons to oppose it as well, but that alone is sufficient.
Unfortunately, the climate change case against pipelines is a distraction from more compelling arguments that could reach across party lines.