The Dakota Access Pipeline that triggered the resistance of the Indians, or Native Americans as some of them want to be called, is nearly complete and ready to take oil to the refineries. The Keystone XL Pipeline project, which endured an on-again, off-again status during the Obama years, is on again. It’s a new day for energy in America.
Soot-stained skies are largely a thing of the past, with tubes and tunnels transporting more and more oil beneath the surface of the land, and barely imagined wonders are soon on the way. Elon Musk, the visionary founder of SpaceX and the Tesla electric automobile, is experimenting with a transportation system that would send a bulletlike passenger pod speeding through a vacuum tube called a hyperloop at speeds of 600 miles an hour. A model is being tested now in the Nevada desert.
Mr. Musk is currently boring an enormous tunnel beneath the streets of Los Angeles, near his Space X headquarters, as part of a hyperloop system and a roadway to enable cars to escape traffic-choked streets above. But all that is in the future. Energy for the present lies in the pipelines.
The $3.8 billion Keystone pipeline got a final green light this week when a federal court denied a request by the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes to prevent activation of a newly completed section of the pipeline in North Dakota. The final litigation had idled the project during the autumn. The tribes and their allies brought their protest to Washington last week to lobby Congress for four days and finally marching to the White House.
A Texas-based developer, Energy Transfer Partners, began drilling a pipeline tunnel last month beneath Lake Oahe, which the tribes argued would violate their access to clean water. With tribal land a half-mile away and eight other pipelines lying on the lake bottom, the court said the argument didn’t hold water, and dismissed the tribes’ lawsuit.
American Indians no doubt suffered as settlers spread European civilization across the vast western plains. But sensitivity to their culture and the legitimate rights of their descendants cannot trump the rights of hundreds of millions of others who share the continent. Oil powers the nation, including the machines of the Indian nations within America’s boundaries. The North Dakotans who pitched their teepees on the National Mall to make their case last week did not, after all, arrive on foot.
The completion of the 1,134-mile conduit connecting North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to storage tanks in Illinois is an affirmation of the rights of Americans to exploit the natural resources of their land. With the new section of pipeline in place, oil can begin flowing next week.
President Trump resurrected the prospects of the long-stalled Keystone XL Pipeline with an executive order immediately after his inauguration in January, expediting environmental reviews and approvals. After years of argument over the impact of fossil fuels on the climate, President Obama had stopped work in 2015, a gift to his green energy entrepreneurs. The 2,151-mile pipeline, now back on track, will, when finished, transport 1.1 million barrels of crude daily from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.
If tubes and tunnels prove safe enough for human passengers barreling through at the velocity of a jetliner, pipelines should carry millions of barrels of oil safely across and beneath the Indian homeland. Americans of all kinds revere unspoiled nature, but the way of progress counts, too.