Overview of America’s Pipeline System

Rory Siegel
Bioengineering and English, 2017

Research Paper: 


Construction, placement, and maintenance of pipelines have become hot button political topics. To be an informed voter, citizens must understand the pipeline system spanning across the United States. The production of pipelines to transport the crude and refined products to meet the demand of our growing domestic energy resources has led to multiple national news stories. Oftentimes there is public backlash to proposed pipelines, which creates bias and bad information to come out from both sides of the issue. Knowing the improvements made and hazards yet to be solved in pipeline technology provides both short- and long-term perspectives on what kinds of public and environmental damages are caused by pipelines, and where pipelines should be placed. Not all locations are the same and an analysis of government and private practices will help readers make informed decisions for their own town and state. That being said, also understanding what the federal government does to regulate pipelines is important when voting for congressmen, senators, and the President. 
Lehigh students will be making decisions such as these in the near future. Understanding our pipeline system, how it is expanded and developed, helps students think for themselves instead of being influenced by public opinion or corporate propaganda. Since Pennsylvania is a fracking hotspot, students who understand the environmental ramifications of continued support of the fracking industry, and by proxy the pipeline industry, will make better judgements on whether they want their own legislatures to enact similar policies. Lehigh students live all across the country and there is no right answer for any one location. However, being able to decide if the government has adequately protected both the interests of the public and the companies requires knowledge on the limits of the pipeline system.
The general public should also be interested in understanding the materials and methods used in the pipeline system. Pipelines affect people differently, depending on if they live in rural or urban areas, or if they are directly affected by possible water source contamination, among other things. People who have a basic understanding of where their energy comes from will be more informed voters, and can decide if the health and environmental impacts of pipelines are worth the energy they provide.