From an editorial in today’s Investor’s Business Daily titled “Canada Train Wreck Shows Need For Keystone Pipeline“:
An oil-laden train not unlike those rolling down American tracks derailed and exploded Saturday in a Canadian town, proving why pipelines are safer and environmentalist opposition to a pipeline from Canada is misguided. At least 13 people were reported dead and 37 missing in the charred Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, after the accident created an inferno of burning crude.
The Canadian tragedy comes amid the controversy over the transport of Canadian crude through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to Gulf Coast refineries. Without Keystone, designed to carry 830,000 barrels a day of oil, shipments of Canadian crude by rail would rise an additional 42% by 2017.
Railways suffer spills 2.7 times more often than pipelines. The State Department said trains spill 33 times more oil than pipelines. “The evidence is so overwhelming that railroads are far less safe than pipelines,” says Charles Ebinger, director of the Brookings Institution’s energy security initiative.
“One of the unintended consequences of delaying Keystone XL is that more oil has been getting to markets in Canada and the United States using rail, truck and water-borne tankers,” Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada. “None of those methods of transportation are as safe as moving it by pipelines.”
Environmentalists fighting Keystone XL ignore that there would be no greater danger than that posed by any of the more than 50,000 existing miles of safely operating pipeline already crisscrossing the U.S., including Nebraska and the Ogallala Aquifer.
Environmentalists should be clamoring for the Obama administration to approve Keystone. The oil is coming out regardless, and it’s going to be shipped by either pipeline, rail or barges.
Obama has tied Keystone approval to whether it increases carbon emissions. Never mind that the lack of actual global warming makes such concerns irrelevant. Even his own State Department has conceded that shipping the oil mostly by rail would boost carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases by 8% over Keystone.
The Lac-Megantic derailment was a real environmental disaster, not an imaginary one. Each tanker in the 72-car train was carrying 100 tons of crude oil, according to the Quebec environment ministry. And they could be coming to a town near you.
MP: As the chart above shows, oil shipments by rail in the US have doubled during the January-June period in just two years – from 174,000 carloads in 2011 during the first half of the year to more than 355,000 carloads this year through June (data here). With the ongoing increases in shale oil production in states like North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, it’s likely that shipments of oil by rail could double again within a few years, significantly increasing the likelihood of a rail disaster in the US like the one in Canada, with huge environmental and human costs. The Keystone XL pipeline makes perfect economic and perfect environmental sense, and it’s only politics that will hold up its approval.