The Cure for Oil Trains

Keith Kohl

Written By Keith Kohl

Posted June 30, 2014

Train explosions have to be the more dreaded consequences of the shale boom…

The record continues to grow with recent derailment explosions rocking North Dakota, Alabama, New Brunswick, Lynchburg, South Carolina, and one in Lac-Mégantic, Canada where a runaway train filled with crude crashed and killed 47 people.

Considering most of the train derailments have been by locomotives transporting the volatile light, sweet crude from the Bakken, you can fully expect a media frenzy to follow these stories, especially after reviewing the latest statistics that were leaked recently.

Buffet’s BNSF Railway, for example, moves as many as 27 oil trains each week through Cook County, which encompasses a large portion of Chicago, and as many as 13 trains each week through King County in Washington.

We’re talking about a lot of crude oil. Some of these trains carry as many as 3 million gallons – or roughly 70,000 barrels – of crude, so it’s not hard for many to picture the catastrophic impact a derailment could have in Chicago or Seattle.

And the rise of rail accidents over the last few years isn’t very comforting…

railway blog chart

Interestingly, those railway statistics were leaked on the very same day that environmental groups in Canada lambasted the approval of the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

The project, once built, could transport about 530,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to Kitimat in British Columbia where it can be shipped to Asian markets.

Of course, taking more than half a million barrels of oil per day off of trains would take eight of those massive trains off the tracks.

Canada’s Green Party leader, Elizabeth May fails to see this logic. In fact, whe went so far as to claim that the pipeline would never be built.

Thing is, there’s one part that most people don’t realize – companies are still going to extract oil from the bituminous sands in northern Alberta even without the Northern Gateway or Keystone XL pipelines.

And if we build the pipelines that can prevent the major overcrowding and exhaustion of our railroads, it might just avoid more of these explosive incidents going forward.

Trust me, we don’t want to keep kicking this can down the road.

Until next time,

Keith Kohl

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