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On the tracks barely 100 yards from my home a steady parade of 100+ car unit trains of crude oil from the Bakken pass by each day and night. Yup, over a hundred 25,000 gallon or so tank car loads, amounting to a "mere" couple million gallons of oil in each unit train. Everyone has seen at one time or another horrific pictures of what a spilled 6,000 gallon tanker truck can do in the way of pollution and hopefully not conflagration. What's passing barely a hundred yards from my house is 400 tankerloads in one train, and several of those trains a day.

Now the railroad, BNSF, does a damn good job of keepin' up the tracks- they are literally out there every day and sometimes into the night maintaining the rails and the signals and such. Same with the engineers and conductors and dispatchers- they're the best! They have to be- get caught speeding or running a red light on the railroad and it's a 30 day suspension, do it again and you're fired. And  from what I've heard, the railroad would really rather not be hauling Hazmat, but as a common carrier they have to.

And despite all those precautions, derailments and other accidents still happen. Over the last couple days BNSF's main line across northern Montana was shut down by a derailment, and UP had a frac sand train derail east of St.Paul. Both accidents produced no injuries  with few cars derailing and the tracks were quickly cleared and repaired. But sometimes whole trains derail and cars get split open. That's the worse case scenario with most of a couple million gallons of crude oil spilled along the tracks. Up here on the ridge the streams are small and steep and would quickly be flooded with oil. A couple million gallons of oil is more than our little volunteer fire departments can handle, and we're hours away from the big cleanup specialists that would have any hope of containing a couple million gallons of crude, never mind clean up said crude. If the spill went into our landlocked Twin Lakes they'd be destroyed, if the spill entered the Redwood or Rock Rivers they'd be running black and dead within hours for miles downriver. Couple days and the Minnesota or Missouri would be polluted for months.

That's if were lucky and all that crude oil don't catch fire. Fortunately oil doesn't get all gaseous and easily flamable like gasoline and other lighter oil refinery products, but it'll burn if it finds enough heat and flame. And while the fire wouldn't propagate at the speed a gas would, a couple million gallons will burn up a pretty good sized area and  create an inhalation hazard over an even bigger area. Now the rail line I'm on doesn't pass through a whole lot of major metro areas, but it does pass through several medium sized cities of up to a hundred thousand or so population. Now imagine that derailment and couple million gallon spill and inferno happens in the middle of one of those bigger cities, at 3 in the morning?

That's why oil belongs in pipelines, which have the best safety record of any method of transporting flammable liquids. But the big city environmentalist groups want to shut down oil production, and the arrogant oil and pipeline companies think they can drill "everywhere now" with impunity. Thus needed pipelines aren't getting built and trainloads of flammable crude threaten our rural countryside. Meanwhile, we're paying a premium for diesel fuel out here and supply is tight during harvest season due to insufficient pipeline capacity.

What we need is environmental groups and oil companies that will climb down from their uncompromising positions and make reasonable compromises... Like allowing new common carrier pipelines while restricting greenhouse gas emissions to keep the dirtiest tar sands oil in the ground 'til we develop cleaner ways to extract them.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Clever attempt, Mr. Koch. (5+ / 0-)

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 06:53:49 PM PST

  •  About pipeline safety (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JekyllnHyde, OldSoldier99

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 07:10:43 PM PST

  •  Recommended for providing a different perspective. (9+ / 0-)

    This place is no fun if we all agree.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 07:15:13 PM PST

  •  Try putting this... (5+ / 0-)

    In your Pipeline instead...

    And leave that dirty black stuff in the ground where it belongs...

    "Do you realize the responsibility I carry?
    I'm the only person standing between Richard Nixon and the White House."
    ~John F. Kennedy~

    -7.5,-5.8

    by Oldestsonofasailor on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 07:59:50 PM PST

  •  Risk isn't yours alone (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater, crose, kurt, flowerfarmer

    Rural Route, you want a compromise that is not available.

    As you noted in your diary, everyone living near the railroad is at risk in the event of a leak, not just rural residents.

    But people who live near the proposed pipeline are at risk, too. If the Keystone pipeline leaks bitumen, people will suffer from immediate contamination of the area and will suffer even more if the aquifer is contaminated.

    Being part of mass migration out of America's breadbasket and to areas with usable water would be a real bummer.

    As I understand the situation, the existing pipelines from Canada to the U.S. do not operate at full capacity now.

    The tarsands bitumen can't travel in those, because it is goop, not liquid. If there is a leak, the damage to the environment is more more serious than a leak from an ordinary pipeline. Clean-up will cost billions--but you can't clean up the water in the aquifer if it is contaminated.

    RuralRoute, you're assuming that there is some way to transport this product that will be less risky for you and the people living along the rail line, so the solution is to choose the less risky method.

    Maybe a pipeline would be less risky for you if the bitumen is no longer transported by rail--but it would then be just as risky for those living along the pipeline. That's not a solution. That's not a compromise. That just shifting the danger from one group to another group.

  •  What is your suggested compromise, RR? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, northsylvania, unfangus

    If you support a compromise, then you must have thought about this. What's the compromise that you suggest?

    The tarsands isn't producing a range of oil products that start with the not-too-dirty and go to very-very-dirty. It's all awful. Corporations are making money on it, and they won't stop if they don't have to. If you think that the corporations and governments supporting them will walk away from that dirtiest of oil in the tarsands in order to reach a compromise, you're mistaken, in my opinion.

  •  You said: (5+ / 0-)
    while restricting greenhouse gas emissions to keep the dirtiest tar sands oil in the ground 'til we develop cleaner ways to extract them.
    Your hope of the development of "cleaner ways to extract them [tar sands oils]" is misplaced because the physical
    nature of the tar sands dictates an energy intensive process
    for mining, extraction and processing.   You're holding out for false hope of a more beneficial tar sands process without having any physical basis for doing so that recognizes the intrinsic difficulty of the required industrial process.  

    Such an industrial process to start with dilute high boiling point hydrocarbons in the tar sands and then end up with a final product (synthetic crude) will always mean a series of physical transfers and separations followed by hydrogen treatment carried out under a thermal process.   These physical/chemical/thermal processes all mean process-accounting-specific commitments to substantial greenhouse gas emissions from the intrinsic energy demands of mining, processing and final produce formulation and conversion.

    In conventional crude oil production none of these steps are necessary so the total amount of fossil fuel combustion to produce a barrel of conventional heavy sour crude vs. a comparable product....elevated sulfur syncrude on a barrel delivered to the refinery basis will always be lower the conventional crude.

    The problem with your comment is that it does not recognize the inherent carbon dioxide penalty of using tar sands sources for petroleum product production when compared to using conventional crude sources....which should rightfully be a prime concern in the matter of a presidential permit pipeline issuance matter involving tar sands production sources.

    Another problem is that such a presidential permit is a de facto invitation to Canada for that nation to disregard what should be its international greenhouse gas control obligations which, in turn, should have the government encouraging means of liquid petroleum production that has the least impact on greenhouse gas emissions caused solely by energy used to bring such crude to market at U.S. and Canada petroleum refineries.

    Also, the Bakken production area should already be connected to pipeline facilities heading east so it isn't like these facilities are necessary to produce and ship from that field in WEstern ND.

    •  If pipelines from the Bakken are adequate... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy

      How come several trains a day of crude go by my house?

      •  Because (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt, northsylvania, unfangus

        they are contracted to do so. End users don't just build pipelines. They contract truck and rail transport because it's sometimes cheaper, sometimes more convenient and/or sometimes in the right amount for the end product. Our now defunct Standard refinery tanker trucked in Salt Creek crude for the manufacture of motor oil. They produced at capacity for months at a time, and then because demand would drop, they stored the unrefined crude in the tank farms. They also brokered crude to other refineries. Train tankers were the most convenient and least expensive method for moving this crude.

        If it is not yet doing so, Bakken crude will soon be leaving the field in pipelines but there will always be a need to transport some of it by train.

        Same thing for some mighty fearsome chemicals: sulfuric, nitric and hydrofluoric acids, cyanide, chlorine gas, anhydrous ammonia, styrene, butane and molten sulfur. These things pass by you on a daily basis too and pose a tremendous danger. The truth is, sometimes a pipeline isn't the best way to transport things.

  •  tipd/recd for the opportunity. (0+ / 0-)

    free your mind, the rest will follow ...
    a possibility, not a guarantee.
    one point at a time, no dog-piling. ;)

    There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution.--@Hugh * Addington's Perpwalk: TRAILHEAD of Accountability for Bush-2 Crimes.

    by greenbird on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 10:19:40 PM PST

  •  Takes a little chutzpah... (0+ / 0-)

    ...to put this up here.  Tip'd and rec'd.

    Boehner Just Wants Wife To Listen, Not Come Up With Alternative Debt-Reduction Ideas

    by dov12348 on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 10:38:03 PM PST

  •  Ya know... (0+ / 0-)

    Exploding tanker trains is another reason why I renewed my NRA membership.

  •  Yeah, good luck with this diary (0+ / 0-)

    I, and a few others, have pointed this out but the meaningless Keystone habuki theater continues unabated at this site . . .

    Just a slight nitpick, BN is EAGER (not reluctant) to carry crude oil - so are the big Canadian railroads (just Google it).

    It almost seems as though somebody is paying off the "environmentalists" to focus on something meaningless like Keystone so they can carry on in veritable silence elsewhere.

    Another way to look at the whole situation is how PETA got horse slaughterhouses banned in the USA - but is now in favor of reopening them.  Why, well simply because the alternative is WAY worse (i.e., taking the horses to Mexico to be slaughtered, much more cruelly . . . )

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