After Saturday's tragedy in Lac-Mgantic, Canada, it's time to reconsider approval of new pipeline construction, including TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil to U.S. refiners on the Gulf of Mexico.
Pipelines are the safest and cheapest way of transporting oil and natural gas, and we need more of them, without delay.
In Lac-Mgantic, the derailment of 73 rail cars carrying crude oil from North Dakota to Maine has claimed 13 lives, with another 50 still missing. The calamity follows the June derailment of five rail cars containing fuel in Calgary, Alberta, where fortunately no lives were lost.
As America continues to ramp up production of oil and natural gas, and President Obama continues to try to shut down coal-fired power plants, pipeline infrastructure becomes even more important.
The International Energy Agency reports that America will be a net exporter of natural gas by 2020, and practically self-sufficient in energy by 2035.
Energy self-sufficiency needs transportation. Oil needs to travel from Alberta and North Dakota to the refineries on the Gulf, then to consumers. Shale gas must get from production sites in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alabama, and North Dakota to the rest of the country.
We cannot be self-sufficient if the oil stays in North Dakota, or the shale gas stays in Ohio. This means more pipelines.
If oil had been carried through Lac-Mgantic via pipeline instead of rail, the town's families would not be grieving for lost loved ones today, and oil would not be polluting the lake and the Chaudire River.
Although America has 2.6 million miles of oil and natural gas pipeline — which is not a new technology — Obama has delayed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, citing safety concerns.
A June study by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences entitled "Effects of Diluted Bitumen on Crude Oil Transmission Pipelines" found no evidence that diluted bitumen, the type of crude oil that would flow through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, would contribute to pipeline failures or corrosion, as some have claimed.
Data to compare the safety of transportation of oil and gas by pipeline, road, and rail in the United States are publicly available from the Department of Transportation.
These data on incident, injury, and fatality rates for pipelines, road, and rail for the period 2005 through 2009, the latest available, show that road and rail have higher rates of serious incidents, injuries, and fatalities than pipelines, even though more road and rail incidents go unreported.
Americans are 75 percent more likely to get killed by lightning than to be killed in a pipeline accident.
Road had the highest rate of incidents, with 20 per billion ton-miles, followed by rail, with 2 per billion ton-miles. Natural gas transmission came next, with 0.9 per billion ton-miles. Oil pipelines were the safest, with 0.6 serious incidents per billion ton-miles.
The same can be seen from rates of injury per ton-mile. Rail transport was 37 times more likely to result in injuries requiring hospitalization than hazardous liquid pipeline, and road was 143 times more likely.
Fatality rates showed the same pattern. Pipeline transportation was safest, with rail 25 times as likely to have fatalities, and road 70 times as likely.
Rising oil and gas production is outpacing the transportation capacity of America's inadequate national pipeline infrastructure.
Crude oil shipments via rail have continued to expand. In 2012, U.S. Class I railroads delivered 233,811 carloads of crude, compared to 66,000 in 2011 and 9,500 in 2008.
Lac-Mgantic's tragedy brings home to all of us that in evaluating how to transport oil and gas, the value of human lives should be a paramount consideration. That means more permits for pipelines.
DIANA FURCHTGOTT-ROTH, a Washington Examiner columnist (firstname.lastname@example.org) and former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute forPolicy Research.