After a train derailment, fire and evacuations in North Dakota this week, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was asked about President Obama's refusal to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline at a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday. "It's one of the most irrational decisions the president has made, and he's made a lot of irrational decisions, so add this one to the list," Huckabee says. "The Keystone pipeline should be an easy decision for any president, an easy decision for anybody with an IQ above broccoli. This is pretty simple folks. It is safer, it is more efficient and it is a job creator."
It's true that oil rail accidents have shot up in recent years ... but that doesn't make Keystone less dangerous than train shipments. Trains are more likely than pipelines to have accidents, but their accidents are less environmentally devastating: The International Energy Agency's eight-year analysis of oil spills found the risk of a spill is six times higher for rail than pipeline shipments, but a pipeline accident spills three times as much oil as a rail shipment. Furthermore, it's unlikely the pipeline will relieve congestion in North Dakota, which is the primary reason for the spike in oil transport. About 10 percent of the nation's crude oil travels by rail, except in North Dakota, where two-thirds of Bakken crude oil moves by train. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat and a Keystone supporter, had the best argument explaining why this particular pro-Keystone argument fails: "I am not someone who has ever said that the Keystone Pipeline will take crude off the rails. It won't. Our markets are east and west and it would be extraordinarily difficult to build pipelines east and west." Keystone would run south through the U.S., to refineries at the Gulf Coast.