Latest news —

Line 5: A symbol of North America’s debate over continued fossil fuel investment

Canadian-based Enbridge’s plan to encapsulate its controversial Line 5 fuel pipeline with a $500 million tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac lakebed is the kind of investment in fossil fuels that America needs to stop if it is going to address climate change in a more meaningful way, aUniversity of Michigan researcher said Monday.

Julia Cole, a U-M earth and environmental sciences professor, said the project “absolutely works against” collective efforts to reduce greenhouse gases that are warming the planet and disrupting climate patterns.

“When you are in a hole — and we are in a big hole — the first thing you have to do is stop digging,” Ms. Cole said. “The pipeline and the tunnel represent the investments we have to avoid.”

Ms. Cole was the featured speaker of a webinar hosted by the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The moderator was Margre the Kearney, an Environmental Law & PolicyCenter senior attorney, who opened the event by calling Line 5 “an immediate threat to the Great Lakes” and Enbridge’s plan for a tunnel “a disruptive and dangerous undertaking.”

At no time during the event, though, was there any mention of pipelines delivering fuel products far more efficiently and with fewer greenhouse gases than by ship, rail, or truck.

That’s assuming there are no accidents, of course.

In fact, Line 5 was built in 1953 to reduce the potential of crude oil spilling into the Great Lakes and their tributaries when moved by those other modes of transportation.

But a tugboat’s 2018 anchor strike which dented Line 5 has raised questions about the need for the 645-mile pipeline which delivers 42percent of the products refined throughout northwest Ohio and southeastMichigan.

The webinar’s theme wasn’t about the fate of area gasoline, jet fuel, propane, or refinery workers, though.

It was a big picture look at how continued investments in major pipelines keep North Americans hooked on fossil fuels.

Ms. Cole said it’s time to move on and encourage more focus on renewable energy and other alternatives.

The administration of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, meanwhile, remains adamantly opposed to efforts undertaken by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to shut down Line 5.

“Our administration has always stood for an all-of-the-above energy strategy,” Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said in a statement the governor’s office issued to The Blade on Monday. “To execute that, we cannot simply shut down access to certain types of energy with no long-term plan to replace it or the thousands of jobs these industries support. It will take decades for America to transition away from the internal combustion

engines that power our cars, trucks and air travel. Until that day, ifGovernor Whitmer closes Line 5, she will drive up the price of fuel and hurtthe working people of the Midwest who can’t afford to pay more at the pump to go to work and take care of their families.”

Lucas County Commission President Tina Skeldon Wozniak called for investment in infrastructure “that will aid our transition to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels.”

“As renewable sources of energy become more economically competitive and as we see a rise in extreme weather events such as flooding, droughts, and more intense storms – such as this past weekend’s deadly tornadoes and severe weather across eight states including Ohio – the need and desire to move towards more renewable sources of energy is more relevant than ever,” she said. 

The investment in infrastructure “should be the No. 1 priority when planning for the future,” Ms. Skeldon Wozniak said.

Ryan Duffy, Enbridge spokesman, said the $500 million cost for the tunnel will be paid entirely by the pipeline company. The deal was made during the waning days of former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.

Permitting “continues to be the driver of project timing, and those permitting timelines continue to be drawn out,” Mr. Duffy said.

Construction is expected to take four years once it commences, he said.

To date, the company has spent more than $100 million on the project, Mr.Duffy said.

“Placing a pipeline in a new Great Lakes Tunnel will provide extra layers of safety and environmental protection and make what is currently a safe pipeline even safer, while creating Michigan jobs and securing the needed energy for consumers in Michigan and the region,” he said.

Enbridge plans to reduce its own greenhouse gas emission 35 percent by2030, with a goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 2050. To do that it, it will continue to invest in solar and wind power generation, integrate hydrogen and renewable natural gas into its networks where feasible, and modernize its existing system, Mr. Duffy said.

“Collectively, we will be driving further efficiencies and safe operations across our system, including Line 5 and the Great Lakes Tunnel,” he said. “By placing Line 5 inside a tunnel deep below the lakebed, the GreatLakes Tunnel will eliminate the risk of a spill from Line 5 in the Straits while protecting the pipeline from external threats.”

Brendan Williams, PBF Energy vice president of government relations, said that losing refineries such as PBF Toledo Refining would make the UnitedStates “even more reliant on overseas manufacturers in less environmentally friendly facilities and countries, many in less friendly, unstable nations that will sell to the highest bidder around the globe.”

“Suggesting that the United States should stop investing in fossil fuels is unrealistic, immoral, and irresponsible, particularly because an energy future with more renewables will be impossible to achieve without products produced from oil and natural gas,” he said.

At least 20 percent of a wind turbine and 50 percent of an electric car are made from refined petroleum products, including those made at PBF’sToledo refinery, Mr. Williams said.

Soap, disinfectants, and N-95 masks that protect people from the coronavirus and its variants also are made from refined products, he said.

Source: The Toledo Blade