And you Want to transport More Oil across America by rail, pipelines? Canadian Town destroyed by Railroad Oil Cars

Train cars carrying petroleum became unmoored and rolled seven miles before jacknifing and exploding, inflicting heavy damage on the town of Lac Megantic in Quebec. At least 5 are dead, 40 are missing, and over a thousand were evacuated because of toxic fumes and the outbreak of fires.

CBS News reports:

Industrial accidents involving petroleum are a major cost of depending on oil for transportation, which no one figures into the price of fuel. Not to mention industrial spillage of petroleum products into rivers and lakes. Tens of thousands of Gulf residents have still not recovered from the damage inflicted on them by BP’s Event Horizon leak. Arkansas was hit by a major oil spill in March. Alberta has also been bedevilled by oil spills.

Rapidly moving to electric or electric/ hybrid vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt and the Tesla Model S, and fueling them with wind and solar power, would not only reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the medium term, but would end the scourge of the industrial-scale pollution of our land and water.

Forget all those propaganda points you’ve heard. Aside from the US Midwest, where electricity mainly comes from coal, in much of the US using electric vehicles very substantially reduces CO2 emissions, as the Sierra Club argues. Even in 50/50 coal-burning areas like the UK, an electric car would save at least 20% of carbon emissions, and this is counting the manufacture of the battery. And even in the Midwest, a lot of towns are putting solar panels on city parking garages and providing charging stations, so that you can fill up carbon free while at work. (Depending on your work schedule you can also put solar panels on your roof and do the same thing).

There is nothing standing in the way of our switching over to EVs or hybrid EVs like the Volt very rapidly. It is mainly held up by poor public policy and a failure to calculate the real cost of hydrocarbons (quite apart from being toxic to the environment, burning petroleum causes ruinous climate change).

12 Responses

  1. Absolutely right, Prof. Cole. Petroleum is an environmental and economic dead-end. People have been bamboozled into believing that fracking and mining tar sands will give us huge, unlimited new supplies of oil, when all they prove is that our dependency on fossil fuels is chronic and terminal. It’s like a crack addict scraping his pipe to get one more hit.

  2. Automobiles — electric or gasoline — are both environmentally destructive. EV’s are only marginally less destructive.

    Why not re-develop our rotted public transit and rail infrastructure and run them with renewable electricity?

    Go to a country like Switzerland and see what conventional rail and good public transit functions.

  3. Wonder how much the RR companies have “subsidized” the anti-pipeline environmentalists and public to demonstrate against pipelines. Everyone wants to make money at the expense of small communities who do not have the infrastructures of big cities and towns. Now Albertans won’t be able to diss the Quebecers who did not like the idea of transporting oil by rail.
    BTW This crude was coming from North Dakota and its final destination was Northern Maine.

  4. You conveniently omit that the “Canadian Town destroyed by Railroad Oil Cars” was destroyed by a US COMPANY carrying US CRUDE from NORTH DAKOTA to the US. You choose to focus on the danger of this mode of transportation for the US. Don’t worry: the US seems to be quite willing to outsource the death and destruction to other countries.

  5. Great post, bad headline.

    A disaster caused by rail transport is not a terribly compelling argument against a pipeline, particularly one intended to replace rail transport.

    • We already had the pipeline disaster in Arkansas a few weeks ago. The energy corporations are really putting on a show about how they protect the public’s safety.

      The truth is, we are willing to sacrifice other people for our convenience and inertia; we just keep rolling the dice that it won’t be our turn to suffer this time. The free market creates the illusion that the suffering is random, while “big government” would mean having to make tough decisions about who deserves what consequences.

  6. This could have been an accident, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was done deliberately by Islamic extremists, FLQ, or some combination of these.

      • The fact that you mentioned FLQ shows how uninformed you are about Quebec situation. It is one thing to know about Quebec’s history and the FLQ, it’s another thing to know about how Quebec is nowadays. Please not to mention FLQ, a historical group who disappeared a long time ago (that is to say a couple of decades ago). It’s very displeasing to read such a comment. It makes me wonder how people in Iraq might be behaving towards certain comments made here, if this one particularly makes me react like this.
        Le fait que vous ayez mentionné le FLQ montre à quel point vous êtes mal informé par rapport à la situation au Québec. C’est une chose de connaître l’histoire du Québec, c’en est une autre de connaître le Québec d’aujourd’hui. Je vous prierais de ne pas connaître le FLQ, un groupe historique maitnenant disparu depuis des décennies. C’est extrêmement décevant de lire un commentaire de ce genre. Je me demande désormais comment les gens en Iraq réagissent par rapport aux commentaires faits ici, si celui-ci parvient à me faire réagir de la sorte…

  7. For thirty-five years, I live two blocks to the train tracks & a mile away from the train station.

    I thought many times that it should have been other way round.

    Being so near to the train tracks, it is always on my mind that someday an accident may happen similar to what happened in Canada.

    Few years back I was visiting Pakistan, I found many cars run on CNG. It has reduced so much smoke emission & pollution from the air, which is unbelievable.

    Last year I rode a bullet train in Uzbekistan, much poor country than Pakistan.

    Both beat USA & many other countries what technology they are using.

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