Canada disaster a lesson for Keystone XL opponents

Thomas Lifson
American greenies imagine they can save the planet by stopping construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, but in the real world they will expose Mother Gaia (and human beings) to greater harm by forcing more oil to be transported by rail.  Pipelines are far safer than rail transportation, as we are reminded by the horror that engulfed much of the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec in flames.  Thirteen people are known dead, but as many as 50 are missing, while charred bodies still are being pulled from the ruins.

This reality should haunt the nightmares of greenies, people generally given to worry. Forget global warming, this was real warming to hellish levels.  Even for those environmentalists who regard humans as a plague, the environmental damage in Lac-Megantic is severe. The AP reports:

Crews were working to contain 27,000 gallons of light crude that spilled from the tankers and made its way into nearby waterways. There were fears it could flow into the St. Lawrence River all the way to Quebec City.

An increasing share of oil in America is being transported by rail.  The North Dakota shale oil bonanza is vastlyenriching the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, a Warren Buffet property.  Keystone XL could take away a good share of that traffic.  But the trend is nationwide. A local Bay Area refinery plans to spend $50 million to create a rail facility for receiving tanker car transported oil.  No doubt, precautions will be taken locally to prevent or mitigate any possible environmental damage, but what of the vast network of rails on which oil tanker cars could travel?  

The plain fact is that there is far more human interaction required to move oil by rail than by pipeline. One small fault on rail bed or track could cause a derailment that could puncture the tank and ignite the contents:

In an interview with the Associated Press Monday, Donald Ross, an investigator with Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB), said that the tankers are known as DOT-111. Its main safety issue is that its steel shell is too thin to resist puncture in accidents, which almost guarantees the car will tear open in an accident, potentially spilling cargo that could catch fire, explode or contaminate the environment.

"It's too early to tell. There's a lot of factors involved," Ross said. "There's a lot of energy here. The train came down on a fairly significant grade for 6.8 miles before it came into the town and did all the destruction it did."  Ross said the train was moving at 63 mph when it derailed.

DOT-111 cars are also a staple of the American rail fleet, though the flaws have been known as far back as a 1991 safety study.

The choice greenies face is either safer pipeline transportation of oil or less safe rail. They cannot get their wish of no oil at all. That is a fantasy.

Photo by Harvey Henkelmann

American greenies imagine they can save the planet by stopping construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, but in the real world they will expose Mother Gaia (and human beings) to greater harm by forcing more oil to be transported by rail.  Pipelines are far safer than rail transportation, as we are reminded by the horror that engulfed much of the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec in flames.  Thirteen people are known dead, but as many as 50 are missing, while charred bodies still are being pulled from the ruins.

This reality should haunt the nightmares of greenies, people generally given to worry. Forget global warming, this was real warming to hellish levels.  Even for those environmentalists who regard humans as a plague, the environmental damage in Lac-Megantic is severe. The AP reports:

Crews were working to contain 27,000 gallons of light crude that spilled from the tankers and made its way into nearby waterways. There were fears it could flow into the St. Lawrence River all the way to Quebec City.

An increasing share of oil in America is being transported by rail.  The North Dakota shale oil bonanza is vastlyenriching the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, a Warren Buffet property.  Keystone XL could take away a good share of that traffic.  But the trend is nationwide. A local Bay Area refinery plans to spend $50 million to create a rail facility for receiving tanker car transported oil.  No doubt, precautions will be taken locally to prevent or mitigate any possible environmental damage, but what of the vast network of rails on which oil tanker cars could travel?  

The plain fact is that there is far more human interaction required to move oil by rail than by pipeline. One small fault on rail bed or track could cause a derailment that could puncture the tank and ignite the contents:

In an interview with the Associated Press Monday, Donald Ross, an investigator with Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB), said that the tankers are known as DOT-111. Its main safety issue is that its steel shell is too thin to resist puncture in accidents, which almost guarantees the car will tear open in an accident, potentially spilling cargo that could catch fire, explode or contaminate the environment.

"It's too early to tell. There's a lot of factors involved," Ross said. "There's a lot of energy here. The train came down on a fairly significant grade for 6.8 miles before it came into the town and did all the destruction it did."  Ross said the train was moving at 63 mph when it derailed.

DOT-111 cars are also a staple of the American rail fleet, though the flaws have been known as far back as a 1991 safety study.

The choice greenies face is either safer pipeline transportation of oil or less safe rail. They cannot get their wish of no oil at all. That is a fantasy.

Photo by Harvey Henkelmann