A gasoline pipeline blew up in the Mexican state of Hidalgo last night, killing (as counted at the moment of this writing) 66 people. But don’t file this disaster in the No-Keystone-XL protest file. It didn’t happen because pipelines are inherently dangerous; it happened because thieves had illegally tapped the pipeline and dozens of local folks had gathered with their cans and buckets to steal some fuel for themselves. (One can argue that the Mexican government and state-owned oil company Pemex didn’t do enough to secure the pipeline and either detain or disperse the thieving mob, but that’s for La Prensa Libre de Dakota). Besides, this was a gasoline pipeline, not an oil pipeline. It’s a lot easier to belly up to the breach and snag a bucket of gasoline for personal use than it would have been for me to scoop up some of TransCanada’s Keystone tar sands crude in Marshall County and put that muck to good use at home.
Illegal taps and fuel theft are a growing problem in Mexico. Pemex reported 12,852 illegal pipeline taps in the first ten months of 2018. In response, the Mexican government is shifting fuel deliveries from pipeline to truck… which seems nuts, since trucks are certainly more expensive and more hijackable or just bribable than an underground pipeline.
We probably won’t see a thief-induced explosion along the Keystone or the Keystone XL oil pipelines anything like last night’s bandito-frito event along Pemex’s gasoline pipeline in Hidalgo. But Mexican pipeline theft reminds us that if we’re going to allow TransCanada to steal our land and put us at ongoing risk of environmental damage, we need to hold them to high standards of monitoring their line for leaks both internal and external. That pipeline explosion also reminds us we could avoid all of these problems by kicking our fossil-fuel addiction and moving toward more sustainable means of power production.
There have been no reports this morning of explosions at wind or solar farms….