Infrastructure flaws have also befallen the U.S. oil industry. The primary transportation system for oil and petroleum products in the United States is a network of 2 million miles of pipelines. After oil is pumped from the ground, it travels through gathering lines to these pipelines. The pipelines deliver the oil to refineries, where the oil is transformed into petroleum products such as gasoline. One average pipeline can transmit the equivalent of 750 tanker truck loads of oil per day.
Many of the existing pipelines in the United States are fairly old and require regular safety and environmental checks. Insufficient pipeline capacity has been known to disturb the flow of oil and petroleum products from one region of the country to another, and energy supply shortages can create operational difficulties in the pipelines themselves. By the nature of the cargo they carry, pipelines can be dangerous. In August 2000 a corroding natural gas pipeline near the Pecos River in southeastern New Mexico ruptured, causing an explosion so large that 11 nearby campers were killed by the blast and a fireball could be seen as far as 20 miles to the north in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Failures such as these are significant threats to the safety of individuals and communities. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 429 hazardous pipeline incidents in 2004 and 396 in 2005.
Dangerously outdated infrastructure has also plagued other aspects of the U.S. oil industry. Oil refineries have suffered infrastructure problems as a result of ongoing industry consolidation ever since the oil shocks of the 1970s. Environmentally destructive oil spills from oil tankers that were not double-hulled for safety were also a major problem, until the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 mandated double-hulling.
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