By Tom Borelli
Plans for a new oil pipeline just went up in flames - literally. This summer, radical environmentalists in Iowa set fire to pipeline construction equipment, causing nearly $1 million in damages.
The incident was hardly isolated. Environmentalists nationwide are desperately working to stop pipeline construction. In Massachusetts, for example, several protesters locked themselves to their cars - with bike locks - in an effort to block construction of a pipeline in West Roxbury.
Unfortunately, these activists - and the politicians who pander to them - aren't just slowing the construction of new oil and gas pipelines. They're also slowing economic growth opportunity and limiting America's efforts to become energy independent.
Take the project that inspired the Iowa arson - the 1,168-mile Dakota Access pipeline. The pipeline will move 570,000 barrels of oil daily across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois - bringing each of those states 4,000 jobs. It's also expected to generate $156 million in tax revenue.
These economic gains will give local economies a welcome boost. Campgrounds and rental properties near construction sites for the Dakota Access pipeline are in high demand. Restaurants, grocery stores, health-care clinics, and recreational venues will all benefit from more business.
Other pipelines are just as financially promising. Take the Energy East pipeline project - proposed by the same company behind Keystone XL - that would carry oil 3,000 miles across Canada to the East Coast.
For regions of the country still reeling from manufacturing job losses, pipeline projects like Energy East show real economic promise. The pipeline is forecast to add more than $10 billion to the economy and create 14,000 full-time jobs annually.
Or consider Pennsylvania's Mariner East pipeline project, which environmentalists are protesting by sitting in trees along its path. Without the Mariner East, Pennsylvania's economy would miss out on 15,000 jobs and $100 million each year.
Meanwhile, activists in New York are blocking the Constitution gas pipeline - holding up 2,400 jobs and $130 million in labor income. The Comanche Trail and Trans-Pecos pipelines in West Texas face opposition as well.
Misguided pipeline protests are having a devastating ripple effect. Ever since the Obama administration vetoed Keystone XL last year, 11 pipeline projects have been canceled or postponed.
Activists aren't just hindering economic benefits; they're impeding American energy security as well. Since the 1970s, America has significantly moved away from dependence on foreign nations for oil - nearly 90 percent of oil consumed by Americans is now produced in the United States.
In fact, our nation has become a world leader in gas and oil production - beating out giants like Russia and Saudi Arabia. Pipeline projects will help America keep that status and achieve total energy independence.
Pipeline opponents often express concerns over accidents. But pipelines are by far the safest method to move oil and gas. In 2013, pipeline-transported oil and gas safely reached its destination more than 99.999 percent of the time. In fact, a person is more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than by a pipeline accident.
With hundreds planning to risk arrest to stall construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, it's clear that green radicals' crusade won't end anytime soon. But politicians should look past incendiary attacks on American economic and energy security - and support pipeline construction.