Why Farmers Need Keystone XL

By Katie Kieffer


Image credit: “Farming Wisconsin Style” by Darin on Flickr via Creative Commons.

It’s harvest time! But oil shipments out of the Bakken are causing dangerous and costly rail delays for farmers.

The oil boom in the Northern Plains is a boon to the U.S. economy, creating thousands of jobs and increasing our supply of American energy. With nearly 3 million Americans out of work, the Bakken is like a pool of cool water in an arid desert.

However, our railroads do not have the capacity to transport unprecedented levels of crude oil as well as the fall harvest. Farmers are understandably frustrated with the railroad companies, yet the railroad companies say they are already doing everything possible to increase speeds.

Farmers are scrambling to store their harvest while they wait for rail service. Some growers are forced to store their grain on the ground because they do not have enough temporary bin capacity—rendering the grain susceptible to spoilage or insects.

Overall, the rail delays are increasing costs for farmers and will likely end up raising the cost of food for consumers down the line. In Minnesota alone, transportation delays cost wheat farmers $8.5 million, soybean farmers almost $19 million, and corn farmers $72 million between the months of March and May.

Realistically, oil will continue to flow out of the Bakken and there will be another harvest of corn, soybeans and grain in the autumn of 2015. So, the long-term solution is not to accelerate trains and increase the risk of fiery derailments. The long-term solution is to build more pipelines, starting with Keystone XL.

Rail is the most dangerous mode of transportation for crude oil and it is only a matter of time before Americans die in a tragic derailment. Last summer, a train loaded with crude from the Bakken derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec and killed 47 people. And, a few months ago here in the United States, a train derailed in Lynchberg, VA just outside of a children’s museum—barely sparing the children inside.

The State Department has thrice (yes, that’s three times) declared the Keystone XL pipeline to be environmentally safe. And, as I prove in “Let Me Be Clear,” transporting crude via rail is far more damaging to the environment than via pipeline. Yet President Obama and his sidekick Vice President Joe Biden are prioritizing huffing and puffing about raising the minimum wage rather than approving Keystone XL—a project guaranteed to make Americans safer and more economically secure.

The United States is on the fast track to looking like the America that Ayn Rand describes in her novel “Atlas Shrugged” if Obama doesn’t take his boot off the throat of Keystone XL. Our president is continually harping about creating a better future for America’s children, and yet he is the lone man standing in the way of building the technology that will keep our children safe. Obama also perpetually reminds us how the Republicans will not negotiate with him (which he defines as letting him take a metaphorical blowtorch to the U.S. Constitution). Yet isn’t it interesting that Mr. Compromise is the only person in the entire United States who is unwilling to reach across the northern border and shake hands with our friend and ally Canada?

Are we willing to wait until another derailment causes a fire that takes the lives of innocent children before we build Keystone XL? Are we willing to stall until the price of bread breaks a middle class family’s budget before we increase rail service for farmers and let the Bakken’s shippers use a pipeline? I think not. It’s time to build Keystone XL.

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