Oil sheen contained in Talbert Channel near site of last year’s major O.C. pipeline spill. (Photo: James Ewing)
DOWAY, CA—One of the last places in the world where clean-burning fuels are available in enough volume to meet the energy needs of the U.S. is the Mojave Desert. So it was a significant surprise when it was announced over the weekend that the first-ever commercial fuel produced in the Mojave was to be used by a power company in Oklahoma.
“At first blush, it is a no-brainer that [the pipeline] needs to be cleaned up,” explains Scott Koehler, a project manager for ETS Energy Corporation, a company with a growing pipeline network that is working on its own version of the Dakota Access pipeline.
But for Koehler, and many like him, it’s not a matter of simply getting the pipeline repaired or just running the gas over the line—it’s about the cleanest and most efficient fuel that can be found anywhere.
If the O.C.’s gas line had been built without an accompanying clean-burning fuel, it might not have been possible to provide enough fuel to meet the state’s fuel demand in a year. As Koehler points out, there are roughly 400,000 miles of pipeline that have the potential to be converted to fuel. But there are only a few hundred miles of pipeline with enough clean-burning fuel in place to support the state’s energy needs.
“So the question becomes not ‘Why aren’t there enough pipelines converted to clean fuel?’ but ‘Why aren’t all the pipelines converted to clean fuel?'” Koehler says. “And the answer is really simple: The clean fuel is only as good as the clean-burning source you use to provide it. If I have an air conditioner but your electricity, we’re not going to meet the need of the region as long as