More from “Oil on the Brain”

Another excerpt from “Oil on the Brain” by Lisa Margonelli

“The Energy Information Agency estimates that, by 2025, Americans will use 37 percent more petroleum than we did in 2004 – rising at a steady rate of 1.5 percent per year. That’s a 37 percent increase in the amount of gasoline that will need to be shipped in tankers, marine terminals, barges, pipelines and tanker trucks. At the moment, pipelines (which ship half of the gasoline) are running at 90 to 96 percent capacity. Oil moves very slowly in pipelines – at around three to eight miles per hour – and it’s not possible to increase that speed. ‘Obviously there’s no way we’re going to get that kind of increase into the pipeline,’ says Bob Reynolds of the petroleum transit consultancy Downstream Alternatives. Waterways are already backed up. Reynolds says that barge shipments are congested and losing whole days just waiting to get through antiquated locks on the inland waterways. And because the Jones act requires tankers running between U.S. ports to be U.S. owned, the number of tankers to take up the slack is limited.”

“So how will these extra gallons of gasoline get distributed? Reynolds imagines that some of the increased fuel will be shuttled on tankers from one place to another. But eventually the 161,000 miles of fuel pipelines in the United States will need some additions. (Only 8,000 of those miles of pipelines have been built within the last twenty years.) Reynolds estimates that the country will need another 10,000 miles of pipeline to handle the difference, at a cost of $1 trillion or so.”

And the author goes on to talk about the indirect costs to using more fuel – namely spills. Of course, we know about the larger spills. But what about the spills that happen on a regular basis.

Data from Dagmar Etkin, a consultant who has worked on oil spill issues for twenty years, “shows that 120 million gallons of oil were spilled in inland waters between 1985 and 2003, pipelines spilled 27 gallons of oil for every billion ‘ton miles’ of oil they transported, while barges and tankers spilled around 15 gallons and trucks spilled 37 gallons. (A ton of oil is 294 gallons. If you ship a ton of oil for one mile you have one ton mile.) Right now the United States ships about 900 billion ton miles of oil and oil products per year.”

This book was published in 2007.



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