Dakota Access Pipeline update

The diagram above is another attempt to make sense of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota and other US states. The dispute over the DAPL seems to have been a key factor in the US election result, splitting the Democratic Party, and causing many blue-collar workers to switch to the Trump side. It continues to have a major influence on US politics.

The pipeline is now weeks from completion. The main protest camp has been closed, and cleanup is in progress to prevent tonnes of garbage and human waste from washing into the Missouri River. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe now appears to be concentrating on repairing ties with its neighbours and encouraging conservative elderly North Dakotans to return to its casino (while remaining opposed to the pipeline). Not shown in the diagram are:

  • The complex ties of the Standing Rock Sioux to their neighbours.
  • The complex funding arrangements of the DAPL, which are now the subject of international protest.
  • The complex network of anti-DAPL organisations.
  • The complex law enforcement operations in the area.

Pew Research conducted an interesting survey on attitudes to the DAPL during Feb 7–12 this year. Results are shown below (click to zoom). Overall, people seemed to be roughly evenly divided, with men more likely to favour the pipeline, and women to oppose it. Those under 30 opposed it 2.5 to 1, however, while those aged 65+ supported it 1.8 to 1. Unsurprisingly, those currently leaning Democrat opposed the pipeline 3.5 to 1, while those currently leaning Republican supported it 4.3 to 1.

One minor quibble I had with the survey was that the wording of the question (“Do you favor or oppose building the Dakota Access Pipeline that would transport oil from the shale oil region in North Dakota through the Midwest?”) did not quite reflect the current state of construction. I would expect the level of opposition to be higher for a proposed pipeline (like Keystone XL) than for a completed (or almost-completed) one – although it’s hard to say for sure.


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