Pipeline Opponents Need Better Math

On November 10, 2020 a group of environmental organizations wrote a letter to the Star Tribune stating an expanded Line 3 pipeline would be the carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent of building 50 new coal plants in Minnesota. Their math is wrong.

Expanding the Line 3 pipeline would increase the volume of oil transported by 370,000 barrels per day, or approximately 135 million barrels per year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states one barrel of oil contains 0.43 metric tons of CO2, and a study in Nature Communications estimates another 0.25 metric tons are emitted for each barrel of Canadian crude produced, for a total of 0.68 metric tons per barrel.

CO2 emissions from the expanded pipeline would be roughly 91.9 million metric tons per year.

Generating electricity with coal produces approximately 1.07 metric tons of CO2 per megawatt hour, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. Minnesota has three sizeable coal plants, the Sherburne County (Sherco) plant, the Boswell Energy Center, and the A.S. King plant. These plants produced roughly 13.3 million metric tons, 7.7 million metric tons, and 2.9 million metric tons of CO2 in 2018, respectively.

Therefore, the expanded pipeline would produce as much CO2 as 7.4 Sherco’s, 12.6 Boswell’s, and 34 A.S. Kings. This is far fewer coal plants than the shrill cry of 50 new coal plants running continuously.

That number appears to have been made up. You can’t claim to “follow the science,” if you can’t follow basic math.