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Earth Transportation Technology

Feds Issue Emergency Order On Crude Oil Trains 211

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Joan Lowy writes for AP that the Department of Transportation has issued an emergency order requiring that railroads inform state emergency management officials about the movement of large shipments of crude oil through their states and urged shippers not to use older model tanks cars that are easily ruptured in accidents, even at slow speeds. The emergency order follows a warning two weeks ago from outgoing National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman that the department risks a 'higher body count' as the result of fiery oil train accidents if it waits for new safety regulations to become final. There have been nine oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada since March of last year, many of them resulting in intense fires and sometimes the evacuation of nearby residents, according to the NTSB. The latest was last week, when a CSX train carrying Bakken crude derailed in downtown Lynchburg, Va., sending three tank cars into the James River and shooting flames and black smoke into the air. Concern about the safe transport of crude oil was heightened after a runaway oil train derailed and then exploded last July in the small town of Lac-Megantic in Canada, just across the border from Maine. More than 60 tank cars spilled more than 1.3 million gallons of oil. Forty-seven people were killed and 30 buildings destroyed in the resulting inferno. Hersman says that over her 10 years on the board she has 'seen a lot of difficulty when it comes to safely rules being implemented if we don't have a high enough body count. That is a tombstone mentality. We know the steps that will prevent or mitigate these accidents. What is missing is the will to require people to do so.'"
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Feds Issue Emergency Order On Crude Oil Trains

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  • by danbert8 ( 1024253 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @12:56PM (#46950669)

    You know, a PIPELINE would be a lot safer way of transporting crude oil around the country... Stopping the construction of pipelines results in more of these rail car accidents you know.

  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:00PM (#46950721)
    Shipping crude oil by railroads is not the case where industry was willing to engage in meaningful self-regulation. Railroads showed complete unwillingness to properly classify cargo (some forms of crude are outright explosive) or use proper equipment (modern tanker cars that resist spills/ruptures during derailment) or follow proper safety measures (multiple operators and not shipping through high-density urban areas). Instead, they are playing shell game where liability outsourced to low-asset holding company that rents everything from the mother company.
  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:06PM (#46950787)
    I assume you are capable understanding that there is no such thing as perfectly secure system or completely bug free software? If so, then why does your brain takes a vacation when we start talking about petroleum?

    Our civilization is built on oil-derived products, we do not have a choice of not shipping it. If we stop shipping oil significant portion of human population will starve and/or freeze and die.

    Given our available shipping choices, pipelines are by far safest and energy efficient way to do it.
  • by danielpauldavis ( 1142767 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:09PM (#46950839)
    What I call the "suffering quotient": if 1 person dies, that 1 unkonwn person's death is largely ignored. If 50 or 100 die, we might do something about preventing the next accident (we might not.) Conversely, if a famous person dies, we pay attention and deal with the problem that killed our celebrity. We need to get some famous people killed by these crude oil spills or nothing will be done.
  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:16PM (#46950897) Homepage Journal

    Our civilization is built on oil-derived products, we do not have a choice of not shipping it.

    In the short term. We should construct incentive networks that slowly migrate off fossil fuels while the costs are reasonable. We are not doing that, and it's going to be hazardous to our entire system.

    Building pipelines, while occasionally useful and necessary, should be done with due attention for the long term economic incentives it creates.

  • Let me know when the people whose ares have a pipeline get a piece of the action.
    Rails are already built.
    And a rail accidents is trivial spill next to a pipeline accident.

    But hey, lets take all the risk and damage so some company can make more money, and put the risk on the people.

  • by danbert8 ( 1024253 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:17PM (#46950913)

    You're right, pipelines built in the 1930s do fail from time to time. Mainly because it's so hard to build new ones that pipeline companies try to run old pipelines at as high pressure as they can get away with. You should see the difference in how pipelines used to be constructed vs how they are built now. A new pipeline is an amazing feat of engineering. Old pipelines were just whatever pipe they could find laid in the ground.

    To make an obligatory Slashdot car analogy: I am suggesting we make new planes so people will be able to travel safer than driving a car. You come back with "yeah, we've obviously never had major plane crashes".

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:22PM (#46950965) Journal

    And what other choice is there? Even if AGW isn't happening (and all but the smallest fraction of experts in fields related to climatology say it is), sooner or later the economics of using a non-renewable energy source are going to kick us in the balls.

  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:29PM (#46951043)
    Most of your food is shipped from far away places and this is economically feasible only due to cheap energy derived from oil. Most of your food is grown with use of fertilizers produced from oil, without fertilizers yields will be greatly reduced. Reduced yields + less fertile climate = a lot less food.

    Sure, we can learn to live in sustainable-energy-using urban centers and bike to work, but we can't learn to not eat. This is why oil is so crucial for our civilization.
  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:33PM (#46951093) Homepage Journal

    Nuclear is absolutely fantastic, because when done correctly, you create your next generation of fuel using this generation. Potentially thousands of years of energy supply.

    Solar and wind are superior outside of financial constraints, because they don't have any catastrophic failures possible from poor maintenance.

    Properly disincentivize fossil fuels gradually over the course of a couple decades, through taxes, tariffs, and regulations, and let the slack get picked up in whatever way is most market friendly.

  • by danbert8 ( 1024253 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:35PM (#46951115)

    Not the most efficient method, and historically one of the worst environmentally and the most dangerous to large populations when there is a failure. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of hydro power, but it's not without severe disadvantages.

  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:35PM (#46951117) Homepage Journal

    It already kind of kicked the commuter society in the balls through gas prices. "Peak oil" happened, and we all just kinda grinned and bore it through extremely rapid commodity inflation.

    We didn't listen, when it would have been cheap to do so, so now it's a little more expensive to address(and we're still not doing anything about it).

  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:39PM (#46951175)
    You are correct in context that we have cheap oil energy available to produce these solar panels. While in theory Sun output exceeds our energy needs in any case short of Dyson Sphere scenario, in practice our present capability to effectively capture this energy is not that great, especially if you remove oil from the equation.

    For the record, I am pro-nuclear/alternative/geothermal. Still, meaningfully diminishing fossil fuel dependency is not achievable at our present technological levels when faced with continuous population growth.
  • Re:I have an idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:51PM (#46951303) Homepage Journal

    To be fair, Keystone deserves all the hate and fury it can attract. They go on TV talking about how misunderstood the Keystone project is, and spout irrelevant bullshit.

    The worst claim I've heard: Keystone is good because hundreds of thousands of US Construction Workers think it should go through. That's like saying abolishing capital punishment is good because hundreds of child rapist-murderers think we should do so. It's like saying raising the minimum liability insurance requirements is good because all major insurance companies think it's good. It's like saying we should bed foxes with hens because the fox supports it.

    This argument doesn't mean Keystone is bad; it means people who stand to profit from Keystone want it to happen. No. Fucking. Shit.

    They respond to concerns by espousing emotional appeals or strawman arguments rather than meaningful rebuttals. Even if the technical concerns are unfounded, the company is untrustworthy.

  • by danbert8 ( 1024253 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @02:57PM (#46952151)

    Never inspecting things is not allowed actually... []

    Spill detection is present on every pipeline, it's just a matter of how sensitive it is. It is in a pipeline's best interest to keep product in the pipe as a leak is lost product even if you didn't have to worry about disasters and cleanup.

    Airplanes have the same problem as pipelines. A lot of them were made a long time ago, and people have been trying to string them along past their design lifespans. New pipelines are far safer than old pipelines. Trying to block construction or replacement of pipelines is counter to making pipeline disasters less likely.

  • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @03:42PM (#46952667)

    Of all major industries, energy is the field with the lowest ratio of research funding to revenue

    which they more than compensate for via ownership of a major political party.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.