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Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline, Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline and TransCanada’s Keystone XL and Energy East pipelines have all sparked fierce political debates pitting economic benefits against potential environmental damages. 

But what about the business case? A handful of economists following the energy industry are split on this question. 

Regardless of any environmental concerns, some say there is no credible case for pipelines now, given that the price of oil has sunken beneath the floorboards and cheaper producers in the Middle East appear ready to continue pumping low-cost oil. 

Last month, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi told attendees of a Houston oil industry conference...

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