The Biden Administration Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, said Tuesday that “pipe is the best way to go” to transport fuel. The comments were made in response to the Colonial pipeline shuttering service due to a ransomware attack.

The context is important, as Secretary Granholm’s comments were specific to a particular pipeline crisis. Critics can rightly point out that her statements include qualifiers about the region, including rail and port factors that may make pipeline particularly effective here and possibly not elsewhere. This statement comes at the same time as another high-ranking official endorsed pipelines.

Biden Administration U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, said this week “it is true” that ‘pipelines are more carbon-delivery efficient than trains or trucks or other forms of delivery’. He went on to say it does not necessarily mean that we should be adding new pipelines, but did reinforce his position stating, “Is [pipeline] better than trains and better than [alternatives]? Yes, yes it is.”

Importantly, pipelines must be evaluated in context and that means assessing what they do – transport resources – and what alternatives exist to accomplish the same goal. The hazardous material resources themselves have to move.

America is currently reliant on a range of natural gas and petroleum products. Not only are these resources needed for generating electricity used by over a third of the nation, but these resources allow for household heating, cooking, and fueling our vehicles. Well beyond this, petroleum products are the raw inputs and components to everyday products like plastics and paints. Even renewable power generation and electric vehicles rely on the power inputs of fossil resources, in addition to oils, greases, and lubricants needed to keep them running effectively.

When it comes to transporting these vital resources – resources that the nation has no realistic chance of weening off of in the near term – there is only one safest, most effective, efficient, and low-cost transportation method: pipelines.

This is not to say that alternatives cannot be used to support the movement of resources, or to carry additional burdens when pipelines are out of commission for some reason. But pipelines move more product, faster, and with less spillage than any alternative transportation method, and they do it without running engines like rail and trucks that emit higher rates of emissions as well.

On the question of whether pipelines are safe, the answer is yes, in context. That does not mean they cannot and should not be continuously improved. In fact, the past 10 years has demonstrated a significant trend toward greater safety and effectiveness, which should be encouraged to continue.

What the comments from administration officials make clear is that the alternative to pipelines is not wind and solar – pipelines are not an energy generator. Pipelines are a transportation method. That means that the alternatives to pipelines are rail, truck, and ocean vessel. And when alternatives are stacked side-by-side, even the current administration validates that pipelines are “the best way to go.”


Written by Benjamin Dierker, Director of Public Policy


The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.